Oct 2, 2006
This year US scientists Andrew Fire and Craig Mello have been awarded the Nobel Prize for Medicine for their discovery of a fundamental mechanism that controls the flow of genetic information.
The human genome provides the DNA instructions for making proteins in the cell. These instructions are carried by messenger RNA (mRNA). Fire and Mello discovered a mechanism that can degrade mRNA from a specific gene, RNA interference. Details of this process, which they published in 1998, explain how it 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.
Check out the Nobel site for more on today’s announcement.