Two US scientists and UK collaborator win Nobel Prize for Medicine for key gene work

November 14th, 2007 - 1:51 am ICT by admin  
Mario Capecchi, Oliver Smithies and Briton Martin Evans developed a technique known as gene targeting.

It enabled them to replicate human diseases in mice by introducing genetic changes into the animal’s stem cells.

The Nobel Committee said this had led to many new insights into conditions such as cancer and heart disease. Its impact on the understanding of gene function and its benefits to mankind will continue to increase over many years to come, the committee added.

According to the Nobel Committee, science has gained a greater understanding of how disease can strike otherwise healthy people.

The technique has also helped to shed new light on the ageing process, and on how the embryo develops in the womb. It can be used to study almost every aspect of mammalian physiology.

In its citation, the Nobel Committee praised the technique as “an immensely powerful technology” which was now being used in virtually all areas of biomedical research.

The technique is commonly described as gene “knockout”, the BBC reports.

It enables scientists to silence specific genes, and monitor the effect, so that gene-by-gene they are able to build a picture of the development of disease.

This group’s work has given hope to many thousands of people currently suffering from incurable genetic conditions

To date more than 10,000 mice genes - around half of the total - have been knocked out, with the rest confidently predicted to follow soon. As a result, more than 500 different mouse models of human disorders have been developed - including cardiovascular and neuro-degenerative diseases, diabetes and cancer.

All three scientists, who will share the prestigious 1.54 million dollar award, have subsequently used gene targeting to make significant advances.

Professor Capecchi, based at the University of Utah, has used the technology to uncover the role of genes involved in organ development, and the overall plan of the body. Sir Martin, of the University of Cardiff, has specialised on the inherited disease cystic fibrosis. Professor Smithies, of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, was born in the UK, but has since taken US citizenship. He has developed mouse models for common human diseases such as high blood pressure and thickened arteries. (ANI)

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