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Svante Pääbo awarded Nobel prize for physiology or medicine

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Geneticist Svante Pääbo has been awarded a Nobel prize for his work on evolutionary genetics



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3 October 2022

Geneticist Svante Pääbo has been awarded a Nobel prize for his work on evolutionary genetics

Niklas Elmehed

The 2022 Nobel prize in physiology or medicine has been awarded to Svante Pääbo for his discoveries concerning human evolution and the genomes of our extinct human relatives.

In 1990, Pääbo – who founded the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany – pioneered methods to sequence ancient DNA by attempting to sequence that of Neanderthal mitochondria, the energy powerhouses of cells. He achieved this using a bone from a Neanderthal that lived 40,000 years ago.

DNA degrades and can become contaminated, meaning that sequencing ancient DNA was thought to be impossible.

“Humanity has always been intrigued by its origins,” said Anna Wedell, chair of the Nobel Committee for Physiology or Medicine, at the prize’s announcement on 3 October. “Where do we come from? And how are we related to those who came before us? What makes us different from hominids that went extinct?”

“Pääbo finally achieved the [what was thought to be] impossible sequencing and assembly of the Neanderthal genome… and discovered a completely new hominin entirely [the Denisovans] by analysing and comparing genome sequences,” she said.

Mitochondrial DNA carries very limited information on an individual’s overall physiology, so next Pääbo sequenced ancient DNA packaged in the nucleus, or main control centre, of ancient cells.

Using three Neanderthal bone specimens from Vindija cave in Croatia, along with others from Germany, Russia and Spain, Pääbo sequenced the 3 billion base pairs of the Neanderthal genome.

By comparing the Neanderthal genome with that of Homo sapiens, Pääbo revealed that these hominin groups diverged roughly 400,000 to 800,000 years ago and would have bred with each other in western Eurasia after H. sapiens migrated out of Africa around 70,000 years ago.

As a result, up to 2 per cent of the genome in people of European or Asian descent originates from Neanderthals, including genes that affect our immune response to infections.

In 2008, Pääbo sequenced DNA from a 40,000-year-old finger bone discovered in a cave in southern Siberia. By comparing this DNA with that of both Neanderthals and H. sapiens, he discovered an entirely new type of hominin, the Denisovans.

Further analysis revealed that H. sapiens bred with Denisovans in eastern parts of Eurasia. As a result, people in Melanesia (a region in the South Pacific Ocean consisting of roughly 2000 islands, including New Guinea, Ghoi and Tanna) and parts of south-east Asia have up to 6 per cent Denisovan DNA.

Pääbo’s work also supported the discovery that one gene inherited from Denisovans helps present-day Tibetans survive at high altitudes with low oxygen concentrations.

“There are a lot of implications [to Pääbo’s research], both in terms of understanding our evolution, potential medical implications and a basic understanding of our physiology,” said Gunilla Karlsson-Hedestam, a member of the Nobel committee, at the announcement.

Studying ancient DNA will continue to reveal the genetic basis for other aspects of our physiology and, in doing so, aid medical advancements, she said.

Referring to the moment Pääbo was told about his Nobel achievement, Thomas Perlmann, secretary of the Nobel Assembly, said at the announcement: “He was speechless, very happy.”

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Kevin Durant, Nets beat Raptors to tally fourth win in a row

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Make it four in a row and seven of their last nine.

The Nets are one of the hottest teams in basketball and moved two games above .500 with a 114-105 victory over the Toronto Raptors in front of a sellout 17,732 fans at Barclays Center on Friday night.

They led by as many as 36 points before letting the Raptors creep back into the game late in the fourth quarter.

After digging a 2-6 hole to start the season, the Nets (13-11) have pulled a complete 180. They are inching closer toward contender status, though they still have tremendous ground to cover separating themselves from the cream of the NBA crop.

And it both looks and feels different when the Nets aren’t leaning too heavily on Kevin Durant — or Kyrie Irving, as they did for unending stretches last season.

Durant’s minutes have become a point of contention in Brooklyn, as they were last year. He entered Friday’s matchup as the league’s leader in minutes, points and field goals. At age 34 and in year 15, the Nets star is averaging 37 minutes per game for the second consecutive season.

“We’ve had to play Kevin more minutes than we’ve wanted to,” head coach Jacque Vaughn said ahead of tipoff. “That’s just kind of where we are. He understands that.”

It hits different, though, when Durant has help, and it reflects on the scoreboard.

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Sharpshooter Joe Harris got hot early, scoring 11 points in the first quarter alone. After breaking out of his shooting slump to hit four out of six threes in Wednesday’s win over the Washington Wizards, Harris, who is starting in place of the injured Ben Simmons (calf strain), hit another five threes for 17 points against the Raptors on Friday.

Royce O’Neale hit a trio of timely threes, and Kyrie Irving shouldered a large chunk of the scoring load, scoring 27 points on 17 shot attempts. Veteran forward TJ Warren, in his Nets debut after missing two-plus seasons with consecutive stress fractures in his left foot, scored 10 points on 5-of-11 shooting off the bench.

And Nic Claxton added 15 points and nine rebounds, sealing the game with a putback dunk, then offensive rebound and finish that extended the Nets’ lead back to 16.

He forced Raptors coach Nick Nurse to call his second to last timeout with four minutes left in the fourth.

It was Durant’s lightest workload of the season. He still played 38 minutes but they were low impact. He only took 10 shots and finished with 17 points, nine rebounds and seven assists.

The Nets built a lead as large as 36 and watched the Raptors whittle the deficit down to as little as seven in the final minute of the fourth quarter. It wasn’t a pretty finish but nothing has come easy for the Nets this season.

They have a chance to make it five in a row on Sunday, though they’ll have to go through last year’s Eastern Conference champion Boston Celtics to get there.

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Fourth child dies in UK after contracting Strep A infection | UK news

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A fourth child has died in the UK after contracting Strep A, as health officials issued warnings to parents and school staff about signs and symptoms of infection.

These include a sore throat, fever and minor skin infections. In rare incidences, it can become a severe illness, and anyone with high fever, severe muscle aches, pain in one area of the body and unexplained vomiting or diarrhoea should seek urgent medical help.

On Friday, the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) confirmed that a child who attended St John’s primary school in Ealing, west London, had died from the bacterial infection, while it also emerged that the parents of a four-year-old boy from Buckinghamshire have said he has died from Strep A.

Shabana Kousar, the mother of Muhammad Ibrahim Ali, who attended the Oakridge school and nursery in High Wycombe, told the Bucks Free Press: “The loss is great and nothing will replace that. He was very helpful around the house and quite adventurous, he loved exploring and enjoyed the forest school, his best day was a Monday and [he] said how Monday was the best day of the week.

“He also had a very close bond with his dad. He was his best friend and went everywhere with him. He just wanted to be with him.”

A pupil from Victoria primary school in Penarth, four miles south of Cardiff, has also died from the infection. A six-year-old died last week after an outbreak of the same infection at a school in Surrey.

Health officials are understood to have reported a slight rise recently in cases of Strep A, which can cause scarlet fever, although deaths and serious complications from the infection are rare.

Dr Yimmy Chow, a health protection consultant at UKHSA, said of the Ealing case: “We are extremely saddened to hear about the death of a child at St John’s primary school, and our thoughts are with their family, friends and the school community. Working with Ealing council public health team, we have provided precautionary advice to the school community to help prevent further cases and we continue to monitor the situation closely.

“Group A streptococcal infections usually result in mild illness, and information has been shared with parents and staff about the signs and symptoms. These include a sore throat, fever and minor skin infections and can be treated with a full course of antibiotics from the GP.

“In rare incidences, it can be a severe illness and anyone with high fever, severe muscle aches, pain in one area of the body and unexplained vomiting or diarrhoea should call NHS 111 and seek medical help immediately.”

Group A streptococcal bacteria can cause many different infections, ranging from minor illnesses to deadly diseases. Scarlet fever is caused by Strep A and mostly affects young children but is easily treated with antibiotics.

According to the NHS, the first signs of scarlet fever can be flu-like symptoms including a high temperature, sore throat and swollen neck glands. A rash appears 12 to 48 hours later that starts on the chest and stomach and then spreads. A white coating appears on the tongue, which peels, leaving the tongue red, swollen and covered in small bumps (often called “strawberry tongue”).

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Mets’ free agent Jacob deGrom inks $185 million deal with Rangers

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Jacob deGrom’s time as a Met is now over. The Texas Rangers announced Friday night that they have signed deGrom to a five-year $185 million contract.

The $37 million AAV is the second highest in baseball behind Max Scherzer.

deGrom spent nine seasons with the Mets compiling a 2.52 ERA and 1607 strikeouts in 209 starts while winning the NL CY Young in 2018 and 2019.

Mets’ owner Steve Cohen released a brief statement to SNY:

“I wish him well. He has the right to choose his team. Now this team has to move on to the next thing.”

This is a developing story. Check back for details.

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