Ancient Genome and COVID-19: A Surprising Link

by Gyanvitaranam

Svante Paabo, Swedish geneticist, has been awarded this year’s Nobel Prize for Physiology, He started his research on the origin of humans 30 years ago, analysing ancient genomes. He could not have based his research on modern techniques of sequencing genes. Nevertheless, he pioneered the technique of analysing the DNA of ancient skeletons to probe the links between various ancient humans and human-like species (hominins).

Paabo proved that Neanderthals, a ‘cousin’ of humans evolved about one lakh years before us. More significantly, he showed that humans and hominins interbred and a fraction of the ancient genome had continued in successive generations and persists even today. In fact, about 1.4 per cent of their genes have been found today in people with European and Asian ancestry.

Paabo also discovered the relic of a new species of hominins called Denisova, who too interbred with humans, leaving as much as 8 per cent of their genome in....

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