Field of Science

Strands of Life

The Nobel prize in medicine and physiology today went to two American scientists, Andrew Fire and Craig Mello, for their work on gene silencing and double-stranded RNA. When we think double-stranded, we often think of another pair of Nobel laureates (Watston and Crick) and a related molecule, DNA. RNA indeed is typically single-stranded, and uses a modified set of bases relative to DNA, subsitituting uracil for thymine. (Wikipedia has a nice diagram.)

The double-stranded version, dubbed RNAi, interferes with the decoding of genes in cells, hence the "gene-silencing" tag.

A colleagues hazards that Nobel winners are getting younger every year. Is it because the time between discovery and award is shrinking or is it that younger scientists are making more critical discoveries?

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