Wednesday, October 10, 2007


The Nobel Prize committee has just awarded the Nobel prize for Medicine to two American and one British scientist, all working on the very important field of gene targeting. Sir Martin Evans, Dr Oliver Smythies and Dr Mario Cappechi, are all experts in different aspect of gene targeting.

I am no great expert on gene targeting and what they do but I do know that gene targeting forms a very powerful research tool. With the currently ongoing human genome project to study gene sequences and their sites and function, we know a lot about disease due to gene function excesses as well as gene deficiencies. These three scientist were able to use the human gene sequencing techniques to replicate human diseases in mice, thus producing in a very simplified way, what we call "knockout mice" models.

For example, if they know that a particular gene when absent can make a mice prone to atherosclerosis, they will replicate that in mice, the "gene deficient knock-out mice", and then study the effects of therapy on these mice. That allow us to understand for example the effects of angiotensin receptor blockers, ACE-I, statins, or beta-blockers, in these atherosclerosis prone mice. You can then begin to see how important the research of these three scientist were.

Individually, they have their own specific genetic diseases that they are working on for a cure. But generally, their work complements each other and contributes to the betterment of mankind. Hopefully one day we can eradicate or cure genetic diseases. The award to these three individuals, allow us to know the extreme importance of genetic work in the treatment of diseases in the future. Obviously, a greater understanding of gene manipulation, may allow us to develop tissues and organs for organ replacement and transplantation. Of course we can all quickly see the downside of this work. As always the fear is that twinkling around with the genetic codes may allow rogue scientist to use this knowledge, not for good, but for evil. It also allows rogue scientist with this knowledge, to genetically clone mice and so also, as a matter of time genetically modified humans or superhumans. Well as always, the advances of science is always subjected to the human who remains responsible, whether to use it for good, or for evil. This is a tribute to Drs Evans, Smythies and Cappechi.

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