The 2015 Nobel Prize in Chemistry goes to Tomas Lindahl, Paul Modrich, Aziz Sancar for mechanistic studies of DNA repair
“This year’s prize is about the cell’s toolbox for repairing DNA.” Göran Hansson, secretary general of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences at about 5:50 A.M. Eastern time.
Tomas Lindahl is at the Francis Crick Institute and Clare Hall Laboratory in the U.K. Paul Modrich is at the Duke University School of Medicine. And Aziz Sancar is at the
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
“Damages occur to your DNA every day.” Sara Snogerup Linse is the chair of the Nobel Committee for chemistry. “In fact, right here, right now, if all those errors were left uncorrected, your genetic material would have very little resemblance to the original chromosomes in your very first cell. Life as we know it today is totally dependent on DNA repair mechanisms, as have been revealed in molecular detail by this year’s chemistry laureates.”
Tomas Lindahl showed that DNA, which had been thought to be a stable molecule, would decay quickly without a way to monitor and fix it. He discovered what’s called base excision repair, involving enzymes that get rid of mistakes and prevent mutations.
Paul Modrich showed how cells correct errors that take place during DNA replication, every time a cell divides. This mismatch repair fixes some 99.9 percent of the errors that take place.
Aziz Sancar worked out what’s known as nucleotide excision repair. If your DNA gets damaged by, for example, UV light, this process junks the broken section of DNA, which allows a piece with the correct sequence to replace it.
“Their findings have enormous consequences. As just one example, they have led to insights—what may go wrong—in conditions such as cancer.”
For an in-depth listen about the 2015 Nobel Prize in Chemistry, look for the Scientific American Science Talk podcast later today.
[The above text is a transcript of this podcast.]