Monday, October 02, 2006

Two Americans
Win Nobel Prize
For Learning
How To
Shut Off
The Genes
That Kill

Americans, Andrew Fire and Craig Mello, win the Nobel for their work in RNA Interference:

Americans Andrew Z. Fire and Craig C. Mello won the Nobel Prize in medicine Monday for discovering a powerful way to turn off the effect of specific genes, opening a potential new avenue for fighting diseases as diverse as cancer and AIDS.

The process, called RNA interference, also is being studied for treating such conditions as hepatitis virus infection and heart disease. It already widely used in basic science as a method to study the function of genes.

RNA interference occurs naturally in plants, animals and humans. The Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, which awarded the $1.4 million prize, said it is important for regulating the activity of genes and helps defend against viral infection.

"This year's Nobel laureates have discovered a fundamental mechanism for controlling the flow of genetic information," the institute said.

Erna Moller, a member of the Nobel committee, said their research helped shed new light on a complicated process that had confused researchers for years.

"It was like opening the blinds in the morning," she said. "Suddenly you can see everything clearly."

Genes produce their effect by sending molecules called messenger RNA to the protein-making machinery of a cell. In RNA interference, certain molecules trigger the destruction of RNA from a particular gene, so that no protein is produced. Thus the gene is effectively silenced.

For instance, a gene causing high blood cholesterol levels was recently shown to be silenced in animals through RNA interference.

Can you imagine what human life will be like when most negative physical conditions can be treated this way. Put this kind of discovery together with the already burgeoning future of bionic limbs and chip implants, and human beings may become close to indestructible.