The Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine 2006

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Harvard, MIT scientists share Noble prize in medicine

The Nobel Assembly at Karolinska Institutet has today decided to award The Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for 2006 jointly to Andrew Z. Fire and Craig C. Mello for their discovery of "RNA interference - gene silencing by double-stranded RNA"


This year's Nobel Laureates have discovered a fundamental mechanism for controlling the flow of genetic information.

Our genome operates by sending instructions for the manufacture of proteins from DNA in the nucleus of the cell to the protein synthesizing machinery in the cytoplasm. These instructions are conveyed by messenger RNA (mRNA). In 1998, the American scientists Andrew Fire and Craig Mello published their discovery of a mechanism that can degrade mRNA from a specific gene. This mechanism, RNA interference, is activated when RNA molecules occur as double-stranded pairs in the cell. Double-stranded RNA activates biochemical machinery which degrades those mRNA molecules that carry a genetic code identical to that of the double-stranded RNA. When such mRNA molecules disappear, the corresponding gene is silenced and no protein of the encoded type is made.

RNA interference occurs in plants, animals, and humans. It is of great importance for the regulation of gene expression, participates in defense against viral infections, and keeps jumping genes under control. RNA interference is already being widely used in basic science as a method to study the function of genes and it may lead to novel therapies in the future.