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Geneticist Mary-Claire King receives the 2013 Paul Ehrlich Prize
Date:3/14/2013

p>Breast cancer research and humanitarian commitment

The power of genetics

Genetics tells us about our inheritance, the traits and features of our genetic makeup. It helps us to better understand complex diseases and can benefit humanity. The 100,000 Paul Ehrlich and Ludwig Darmstaedter Prize goes this year to a scientist who has demonstrated this with her unique accomplishments: Mary-Claire King, American Cancer Society Professor in the Department of Genome Sciences and Medicine at the University of Washington in Seattle. Her name stands for four discoveries that at first glance may appear very different but whose common denominator is the science of genetics.

Humans and chimpanzees are 99% genetically identical

Mary-Claire King demonstrated in 1975 decades before the mass sequencing of genomes that the genetic makeup of humans and chimpanzees is 99% identical. Her finding was based on protein analyses and hydridization studies. The results of her investigations also showed that the lines of hominids and chimpanzees separated in the course of evolution at a much later date than had been previously assumed. King hypothesized that the obvious inequality between humans and chimpanzees was due to differences in gene regulation. The human genome was completely encoded twenty-five years in later (in 2000), that of the chimpanzee thirty years later (in 2005). The direct comparison of the DNA sequences showed that King was right. The genomes are indeed virtually identical. "In conceptual terms, we were right on track," says the human geneticist about her work. "As a rule, concepts are very conservative, only the methods develop very quickly." Genome research has identified three reasons for the obvious differences between humans and chimpanzees. These are regulatory RNAs, epigenetics and the realization that genes are only one aspect of a highly dynamic and highly complex network of external and internal factors.


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Contact: Dr. Hildegard Kaulen
Paul-Ehrlich-Stiftung@pvw.uni-frankfurt.de
49-612-252-718
Goethe University Frankfurt
Source:Eurekalert  

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Geneticist Mary-Claire King receives the 2013 Paul Ehrlich Prize
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