Navigation Links
MGH researcher Gary Ruvkun named a co-recipient of the Lasker Award

Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) and Harvard Medical School investigator Gary Ruvkun, PhD, is one of three co-recipients of the 2008 Lasker Award for Basic Medical Research. Presented by the Albert and Mary Lasker Foundation, the Lasker Awards are often considered the American version of the Nobel Prize, and many Lasker recipients have gone on to win the Nobel. The award will be presented in New York on Friday, Sept. 26.

Ruvkun and his co-recipients Victor Ambros, PhD, of the University of Massachusetts Medical School and David Baulcombe, PhD, FRS, University of Cambridge in the U.K. are being honored for discovering that tiny molecules of RNA can control the activity of critical genes in animals and plants. Instead of being translated into proteins as messenger RNAs are, single-stranded microRNAs bind to regulatory segments of their target genes' RNA and block gene expression. Current knowledge suggests that microRNAs may control one third of human protein-coding genes.

In the early 1980s Ruvkun and Ambros were both fellows in the Massachusetts Institute of Technology laboratory of Robert Horvitz, PhD, investigating genes that control development in the C. elegans roundworm. They worked together to isolate a gene called lin-14 that operates in concert with a gene called lin-4 to regulate the worms' transition through key developmental stages.

As the two researchers established their own laboratories Ruvkun in the MGH Department of Molecular Biology and Ambros at Harvard they continued collaborating to uncover how the two regulatory genes interacted and made some surprising discoveries. Lin-4 did not block the activity of lin-14 through the protein it coded for but in a manner never seen before by direct interaction between the two genes' RNA strands. These critical RNA molecules also appeared to be extremely small, around 20 nucleotides long. In the meantime Baulcombe was pursuing similar research in plants. His discovery that plant genes could be silenced by the action of tiny RNAs similar to the worm sequences studied by Ruvkun and Ambros implied that the same mechanism operated in plants and animals.

In 2000 Ruvkun's team discovered let-7, another tiny regulatory RNA that shuts down its target gene the same way that lin-4 silences lin-14. They also found that the let-7 RNA sequence had been snipped out of a larger RNA molecule that folds back on itself in a hairpin shape. Later that year Ruvkun published evidence that animals from fish to flies to humans have their own versions of let-7, implying that the mechanism is universal to all but the most primitive animal species.

In 2001 Ruvkun collaborated with Craig Mello, PhD, of UMass and Andrew Fire, PhD, then at the Carnegie Institution, to show that the microRNAs of both lin-4 and let-7 are released from their precursor hairpin RNA molecules by the enzyme Dicer, which is also critical to the RNA interference process that Mello and Fire had discovered and for which they received the 2006 Nobel Prize.

It now appears that the human genome contains between 500 and 1,000 microRNAs involved in a broad range of normal and disease-related activities. Researchers have just begun exploring their potential for the diagnosis, prognosis and treatment of disorders. In addition to continuing investigation of RNA's role in controlling gene expression, Ruvkun's team studies other mechanisms involved in the development, metabolism and longevity of C. elegans, including genes involved in the regulation and storage of fat.

Ruvkun is a professor of Genetics at Harvard Medical School and an investigator at the MGH Center for Computational and Integrative Biology. He holds a bachelor's degree in Biophysics from the University of California at Berkeley and a PhD in Biophysics from Harvard University. Among the many other awards he has received some shared with Ambros and Baulcombe are the Franklin Medal, the Gairdner International Award and the 2008 Warren Triennial Prize from MGH. He is a member of the National Academy of Sciences.


Contact: Sue McGreevey
Massachusetts General Hospital

Related biology news :

1. Curbing coal emissions alone might avert climate danger, say researchers
2. Researchers develop nano-sized cargo ships to target and destroy tumors
3. Gap junction protein vital to successful pregnancy, researchers find
4. Cortisol and fatty liver: Researchers find cause of severe metabolic disorders
5. Researchers seeking to identify Alzheimers risk focus on specific blood biomarker
6. Childrens National researcher receives ACCP Distinguished Investigator Award
7. New once-a-week treatment for type 2 diabetes developed by Mount Sinai researcher
8. ISU researchers help map first plant-parasitic nematode genome sequence
9. Collaboration between researchers yields more comprehensive portrait of brain cancer
10. Tel Aviv University researchers create new stem cell screening tool
11. NYU Cancer Institute researcher among first NIH EUREKA award recipients
Post Your Comments:
(Date:11/20/2015)... Connecticut , November 20, 2015 ... authentication company focused on the growing mobile commerce market ... CEO, Gino Pereira , was recently interviewed on ... interview will air on this weekend on Bloomberg ... Latin America . --> NXTD ) ("NXT-ID" ...
(Date:11/19/2015)... Calif. , Nov. 19, 2015  Based on ... Frost & Sullivan recognizes BIO-key with the 2015 Global ... Each year, Frost & Sullivan presents this award to ... line catering to the needs of the market it ... product line meets and expands on customer base demands, ...
(Date:11/19/2015)... YORK , Nov. 19, 2015  Although some ... market is dominated by a few companies, according to ... companies own 51% of the market share of the ... The World Market for Molecular Diagnostic s ... "The market is still controlled by one company ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:11/25/2015)... ... November 25, 2015 , ... A ... Black Aerospace Professionals (OPBAP) has been formalized with the signing of a Memorandum ... met with OPBAP leaders Capt. Karl Minter and Capt. Albert Glenn Tuesday, November ...
(Date:11/25/2015)... , Nov. 25, 2015 Orexigen® Therapeutics, Inc. ... participate in a fireside chat discussion at the Piper ... York . The discussion is scheduled for Wednesday, ... .  A replay will be available for ... Stilwell  , Julie NormartVP, Corporate Communications and Business ...
(Date:11/25/2015)... PORTLAND, Oregon , November 25, 2015 /PRNewswire/ ... Deep Market Research Report is a professional and ... Genomics industry.      (Logo: ... basic overview of the industry including definitions, classifications, ... analysis is provided for the international markets including ...
(Date:11/25/2015)... ... November 25, 2015 , ... Jessica Richman and Zachary Apte, ... their initial angel funding process. Now, they are paying it forward to other ... stage investments in the microbiome space. In this, they join other successful ...
Breaking Biology Technology: