The Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine was announced early October 8th. The winners were Mario Capecchi of the University of Utah, Martin Evans of Cardiff University and Oliver Smithies from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. The won for their discoveries leading to gene targeting in mice.
Gene targeting allows researchers to inactivate individual genes. By the gene’s absence, its true function is often revealed. Numerous genes involved in health and disease have been found using gene targeting. And researchers can knock out specific genes to create mouse models of human diseases, including diabetes and cancer. More than 500 such mouse models have been created.
Capecchi discovered genes crucial for mammalian organ development and the body plan in general. That work has revealed the causes of several birth defects. Evans developed models for the disease cystic fibrosis. And Smithies created mouse models for hypertension and atherosclerosis.
To read a Scientific American magazine profile of Nobel Laureate Mario Capecchi, go to tinyurl.com/26z8wv