Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Science discusses 2007 Medicine Nobel Prize

In an article titled "A Knockout Award in Medicine," the journal Science describes details in the prize for developing the techniques to make knockout mice, animals which lack a specific gene or genes. [318 Science 178].

There are a couple of interesting sidelights:

#1 "...most people assumed it wouldn't work in mammals. Indeed, in the early 1980's, Capecchi's grant application was rejected by the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland, with advice that he should forget about the idea."

The article gets into the concept of homologous recombination, which had been used to alter genes in yeast.

#2 Of stem cells: "Even Evans was confused when he saw the [stem] cells in culture. He came to us and said Someone contaminated my media! because there were strange looking cells growing in it. Lab members had to convince him [Evans] that the cells were ES cells."

The article gets into the concept of a chimera: Evans showed that they could produce live mice by injecting cultured ES cells into a developing embryo. The result is a chimera, an animal whose tissues are a mix of the ES cells and those from the host embryo. In many of those chimeras, the added ES cells by chance produce the animal's sperm and eggs, and when chimeras mate, some of their offspring carry the stem cells' genes in all their tissues.

The same Oct. 12 issue of Science talks about the Physics Nobel on page 179. Giant magnetoresistance (GMR) allowed a dramatic increase in the capacity of computer hard drives.

Science noted that the concept was understood in the 1970s but relevant fabrication techniques only became availabe in the 1980s. Science got into a discovery/innovation distinction: the Nobel committee apparently distinguished between the discovery and its cultivation. The guy who made the discovery useful (Stuart Parkin) did NOT share in the Nobel Prize.

Science also gets into issues with a barcode for plants on page 190. It mentions the Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLD) and the Consortium for the Barcode of Life.


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