Wednesday, October 10, 2007

"Knocking-out" Mice Genes: The Nobel Prize come to Utah

Have you heard of the Nobel Prize? It's one of the greatest honors a scientist can receive - an international prize awarded each year in five subjects, recognizing world-class achievements. This week, the selection committees are announcing the prizes for 2007, and a scientist from Utah has won!

Mario R. Capecchi is a professor of Biology and Human Genetics here at the University of Utah. He won a share of this year's Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for work he did manipulating the genes of mice. Back in the late 1980s, Capecchi and his colleagues created a technique for inactivating or "knocking-out" individual mice genes. That means that they could "turn off" a particular gene and see what happened. (For a more detailed description of the technique, visit the Genetic Science Learning Center's page on the subject).

So what's special about Capecchi's work? The technique he helped develop is useful because it helps scientists understand the role of individual genes. By knocking them out one at a time, scientists can study their effects on all aspects of life, including growth, aging, and disease. According to the Nobel Foundation, the technique "has already produced more than five hundred different mouse models of human disorders, including...diabetes and cancer." The hope is that all this information will lead to new and better cures and prevention. "It's applicable to all diseases, because all of them have a genetic component,"added Capecchi in an interview this week.

Want to learn more about genes? Visit the Genetic Science Learning Center for online lessons about all things gene-related.