Gene Work Wins Nobel Prize in Medicine

2007 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine Goes to 3 Scientists Who Developed 'Gene Knockout' Technique

From the WebMD Archives

Oct. 8, 2007 -- Two U.S. citizens and a British citizen were awarded this year's Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for research on a technique that "knocks out" genes.

The winners are:

  • Mario Capecchi, PhD. Capecchi is the Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator and Distinguished Professor of Human Genetics and Biology at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City. Capecchi was born in Italy and is a U.S. citizen.
  • Martin Evans, PhD. Evans, a British citizen, directs the School of Biosciences and is a professor of mammalian genetics at Cardiff University in Wales.
  • Oliver Smithies, PhD, who is the Excellence Professor of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Smithies was born in the U.K. and is a U.S. citizen.

The scientists won the Nobel Prize for genetic discoveries that have made it possible to target and inactivate specific genes in mice used in scientific research.

By knocking out genes in lab mice, scientists can learn more about what those genes do. That research could lead to new treatments for diseases related to those genes.

"Gene targeting has transformed physiology and medicine," states the Nobel Prize web site. "Among the basic biomedical sciences, it is difficult to image contemporary medical research without the use of gene-targeted models."

Basically, the scientists found a way to tweak DNA in embryonic stem cells of mice to knock out specific genes. Stem cells can develop into other types of cells. Embryonic stem cells are thought to be able to develop into the widest range of cells.

The Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine will be awarded on Dec. 10 in Stockholm, Sweden. Capecchi, Evans, and Smithies will each receive a Nobel medal and share the $1.5 million prize.

WebMD Health News Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD on October 08, 2007

Sources

SOURCES: Nobelprize.org: "The Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine 2007." News release, Nobelprize.org. Nobelprize.org: "Advanced Information: Gene Modification in Mice." Nobelprize.org: "The Nobel Prize Award Ceremonies." Nobelprize.org: "The Nobel Prize Amounts."

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