Genome editing wins Nobel chemistry prize

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Two scientists are awarded the 2020 Nobel prize in Chemistry for developing the tools to edit DNA.

Emmanuelle Charpentier and Jennifer Doudna were announced as this year’s winners for his or her work on the technology of genome editing.

Their discovery referred to as CRISPR-Cas9, maybe a way of creating specific and precise changes to the DNA contained in living cells.

They are the primary women to share the prize without a male collaborator.

The winners will share the prize of 10 million kronor (£861,200).

Commenting on her win, Prof Emmanuelle Charpentier, from the Planck Unit for the Science of Pathogens in Berlin, said she was emotional on learning about the award.

“When it happens, you’re very surprised, and you think that it isn’t real. But obviously it’s real,” she said.

During Emmanuelle Charpentier’s studies of the bacterium Streptococcus pyogenes, she discovered a previously unknown molecule called tracrRNA. Her work showed that tracrRNA is a component of the organism’s immune defenses.

This system, referred to as CRISPR/Cas, disarms viruses by cleaving their DNA.

In 2011, an equivalent year she published this work, Charpentier began a collaboration with Prof Doudna, from the University of California, Berkeley, to recreate the bacterium’s genetic scissors during a tube. They also worked on simplifying the scissors’ molecular components in order that they were easier to use.

In their natural form, the bacterial scissors recognize DNA from viruses. But Charpentier and Doudna showed that they might be reprogrammed to chop any DNA molecule at a predetermined site. Cutting the DNA then allows the code of life to be rewritten.

Commenting on the invention , biological chemist Pernilla Wittung-Stafshede, said: “The ability to chop DNA where you would like has revolutionised the life sciences.”

Chemist Claes Gustafsson added: “We can edit any genome, we will ask all types of questions,” adding that it might be harnessed to treat genetic diseases.

On being one among the primary two women to share the prize, Prof Charpentier said: “I wish that this may provide a positive message specifically for young girls who would really like to follow the trail of science…and to point out them that ladies in science also can have an impression with the research they’re performing.”

She continued: “This isn’t only for women, but we see a transparent lack of interest in following a scientific path, which is extremely worrying.”

Swedish industrialist and chemist Nobel founded the prizes in his will, written in 1895 – a year before his death.

2019 – John B Goodenough, M Stanley Whittingham, and Akira Yoshino share the prize for his or her work on lithium-ion batteries.

2018 – Discoveries about enzymes earned Frances Arnold, George P Smith and Gregory Winter the prize

2017 – Jacques Dubochet, Joachim Frank and Richard Henderson were awarded the prize for improving images of biological molecules

2016 – Jean-Pierre Sauvage, Fraser Stoddart and Bernard Feringa shared the prize for the making machines on a molecular scale.

2015 – Discoveries in DNA repair earned Tomas Lindahl and Paul Modrich and Aziz Sancar the award.

2014 – Eric Betzig, Stefan Hell and William Moerner were awarded the prize for improving the resolution of optical microscopes.

2013 – Michael Levitt, Martin Karplus, and Arieh Warshel shared the prize, for devising computer simulations of chemical processes.

2012 – Work that exposed how protein receptors pass signals between living cells and therefore the environment won the prize for Robert Lefkowitz and Brian Kobilka.

Source: bbc news

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