2006 Nobel Prize in Medicine

Andrew Z. Fire (left) and Craig C. Mello – The 2006 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine is shared by Professor Andrew Z. Fire from Stanford University, California, and Professor Craig C. Mello from the University of Massachusetts Medical School in Worcester. They received the prize for their discovery published in 1998 that double-stranded RNA triggers suppression of gene activity in a homology-dependent manner, a process named RNA interference (RNAi).

Their discovery revealed a new mechanism for gene regulation in which a specific gene can be silenced by homologous double-stranded RNA synthesized in the cell. This control system for gene expression has proven to be important for both the development of an organism and the physiological functions of cells and tissues. Furthermore, RNAi protects against RNA virus infections, especially in plants and invertebrates, and secures genome stability by keeping mobile elements silent.

Today, double-stranded RNA is used as a powerful tool to experimentally elucidate the function of essentially any gene in a cell. The discovery of RNAi has already had an immense impact on biomedical research and might lead to novel medical applications in the future.

More information from the Nobel Prize website.