No, it wasn’t me that won the Nobel Prize. But it was a few people who are in the same field as me. DNA. Genetics. DNA repair. The winners are:
Francis Crick Institute and Clare Hall Laboratory, Hertfordshire, UK
Howard Hughes Medical Institute and Duke University School of Medicine, Durham, NC, USA
University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, NC, USA
for mechanistic studies of DNA repair
this is a Getty image of the scientists/chemists
Each day our DNA is damaged by ultraviolet (UV) radiation, but even without such external attacks, a DNA molecule is unstable. Thousands of changes to a cell’s genome occur every day. Furthermore, mutations can also arise when DNA is copied during cell division, a process that occurs several million times every day in the human body.
The reason our genetic material does not disintegrate into complete chemical chaos is that a host of molecular systems continuously monitor and repair DNA. The Nobel Prize in Chemistry this yea awards three pioneering scientists who have mapped how several of these repair systems function at a detailed molecular level.
In the early 1970s, scientists believed that DNA was a stable molecule, but Tomas Lindahl demonstrated that DNA decays at a rate that should have made complex life on Earth impossible. This insight led him to discover a molecular machinery, base excision repair, which constantly counteracts the collapse of our DNA.
Aziz Sancar has mapped nucleotide excision repair, the mechanism that cells use to repair UV damage to DNA. People born with defects in this repair system will develop skin cancer if they are exposed to sunlight. The cell also utilises nucleotide excision repair to correct defects caused by mutagenic substances, among other things.
Paul Modrich has demonstrated how the cell corrects errors that occur when DNA is replicated during cell division. This mechanism, mismatch repair, reduces the error frequency during DNA replication by about a thousandfold. Inveterate defects in mismatch repair are known, for example, to cause a hereditary variant of colon cancer.
“The Nobel Laureates in Chemistry 2015 have provided fundamental insights into how cells function, knowledge that can be used, for instance, in the development of new cancer treatments.”
(I wonder whether they were interested in DNA when they were young, such as ten years old?)