Andrew Z. Fire and Craig C. Mello of the US have won this year's Nobel Prize for Medicine in recognition of their discovery //of gene silencing by double-stranded RNA, it was announced here Monday.
The Karolinska Institute cited their discovery of RNA interference in awarding them the 10-million-kronor ($1.37-million) prize.
The award winners have discovered "a fundamental mechanism for controlling the flow of genetic information", the institute said.
RNA interference features in plants, animals and humans and is of great importance for regulating gene expression. It also participates in defence against viral infections and keeps so-called "jumping genes" under control, it noted.
RNA interference is also used in basic science to study how genes function and may perhaps in future offer therapies for cardiovascular diseases and cancer, according to the institute.
The American scientists first published their findings in the scientific journal Nature in 1998, opening a new research field.
Professor Bertil Daneholt of the Karolinska Institute's Department of Cell and Molecular Biology told the Swedish radio that the discovery centred on a completely new mechanism to regulate gene activity.
"I was very happy," Fire told the Swedish radio, minutes after being notified by the Karolinska Institute. "At first one doesn't believe it, could be dreaming or a mistake, but guess it is not. Wonderful point to be in."
Fire added that he aims to continue with his research and teaching.
Fellow-laureate Mellow told Swedish radio that "it is still sinking in, I can hardly believe it" after being notified.
Both award winners, who equally share the prize money, said they hope to attend the awards ceremony in Stockholm on December 10, the anniversary of Alfred Nobel's death.
Mellow, reached at his home in Boston, said he was "very surprised because I am fairlyPage: 1 2 Related medicine news :1
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