The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences has recognized the contributions of scientists Paul Modrich, Tomas Lindahl and Aziz Sancar for their research conducted in the 1970s and 1980s.
Modrich, born in 1946, is an investigator at Howard Hughes Medical Institute and professor at Duke University School of Medicine in Durham, North Carolina. Their work has provided fundamental knowledge of how a living cell functions and is, for instance, used for the development of new cancer treatments.
Lindahl, who has worked for decades in Britain, said he was having breakfast when a “nice lady” from the academy called.
Lindahl told reporters at his laboratory near London that the prize is “a great honor and a fantastic way of winding up my career”. My companion required it and roused me high.
“I’m sure there will be (celebrations in Turkey)”, Sancar said in an interview published on the Nobel Foundation’s website. Their ground-breaking work helped explain how the genetic material is kept intact, thanks to a variety of molecular systems whose role is to monitor and reconstruct DNA. DNA sustains damage in multiple ways, such as when it is copied as cells divide or in response to chemicals or ultraviolet rays from the Sunday.
In the 1970’s, scientists believed that DNA was a stable molecule, but Swedish chemist Tomas Lindahl demonstrated that it decays to such an incredible extent that life on Earth should never have been possible.
Working on how cells recover from damage sustained from sunlight or carcinogenic substances, Sancar mapped out how cells use nucleotide excision fix to correct defects.
Lindahl’s findings on “base excision repair” revealed the corrective mechanism for different forms of lesions that affect DNA bases, limiting miscoding that would greatly compromise the structure of DNA.
Basically, DNA damage occurs naturally, as cells replicate and recombine, but these transcription errors can be detected and fixed, thanks to “Mut” proteins. Aside from the fact that they have now entered history books, a sum of $960,000 will also be divided among the title recipients.
This year’s medicine prize went to three scientists from Japan, the US and China who discovered drugs to fight malaria and other tropical diseases.