UK scientists Sydney Brenner and Sir John Sulston, will share the award with US scientist Robert Horvitz. They are being recognised for their work into how genes control the division of the body’s cells and the development of organs.
This work has helped understand the development of many diseases, the Nobel Institute said in its citation.
Among their discoveries is the genetic mechanism controlling the programmed death of cells at the end of their lives.
The work was carried out on very primitive nematode worms, which are less than 1mm long. 40% of its genes are closely related to human ones, so it has helped scientists understand disease processes in humans, in particular diseases such as cancer, where programmed cell death does not take place. It is also shedding light on conditions such as AIDS, strokes and heart attacks, where cells are lost because of excessive cell death.
‘The discoveries are important for medical research and have shed new light on the pathogenesis of many diseases,’ the citation says.
News of the award, worth 10million Swedish Kroner, or almost AUD $2million, was announced in Stockholm on Monday.
The Nobel prize will be formally awarded at a ceremony on 10 December this year.
(Source: BBC News & Omnus Oncology)