Corporate Banner
Satellite Banner
Scientific Communities
Become a Member | Sign in
Home>News>This Article

Cambridge Botanist Awarded ‘America’s Nobel’ Prize for Medical Research

Published: Friday, October 31, 2008
Last Updated: Friday, October 31, 2008
Bookmark and Share
David Baulcombe, the Professor of Botany at Cambridge University, is being honored with the 2008 Lasker Award for Basic Medical Research.

David Baulcombe, the Professor of Botany at Cambridge University, is being honored with the 2008 Lasker Award for Basic Medical Research for his discovery of how tiny RNA molecules govern gene activity through a process known as RNA silencing.

RNA (ribonucleic acid) is found in all living things, and is very similar to DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid). If DNA is the blueprint for all life, then RNA delivers the instructions to the builders so they can make the necessary components for life, namely proteins.

The award is for the discovery of a new class of small RNA that regulates gene expression. In 1993, very tiny RNAs had been detected in worms by Victor Ambros and Gary Ruvkun in the US, who share this year's Lasker Award with David Baulcombe. At the time, the short RNAs were thought to be a peculiarity specific to worms.

However, in 1999, Baulcombe and a postdoctoral fellow in his laboratory, Andrew Hamilton, devised a hunt specifically for small RNAs in plant cells containing foreign genes. First they added foreign genes into plant cells either in the form of transgenes or as viruses and they then looked for the small RNAs. They did indeed find them but only under conditions in which the foreign genes were inactive. It was this crucial observation that then led them to propose that the small RNA were essential components in gene silencing mechanisms.

This discovery suggested that small RNAs exist in many organisms and hinted at the presence of a cellular machinery that creates these precisely-sized molecules and then uses them to silence gene activity. Baulcombe's research group has subsequently identified other components of this cellular machinery and characterized small RNA systems as natural weapons that can protect against virus disease.

Now, laboratories all over the world study these RNAs; the tiny molecules control a vast number of genes in plants as well as animals, and play roles in human health and disease, including cancer and viral infections. The presence of these molecules can be used to diagnose disease. In future, it may be possible to deliver small RNA as a drug to treat disease.

The unusual award of a Lasker to a botanist reflects the commonality of basic mechanisms in biology. Inside a plant cell there are many processes taking place that are very similar to those inside animals.

The Lasker Awards, sometimes referred to as 'America's Nobels,' are awarded to scientists and physicians who had made major advances in the understanding, diagnosis, treatment, cure and prevention of human disease.

Further Information

Join For Free

Access to this exclusive content is for Technology Networks Premium members only.

Join Technology Networks Premium for free access to:

  • Exclusive articles
  • Presentations from international conferences
  • Over 3,500+ scientific posters on ePosters
  • More Than 5,200+ scientific videos on LabTube
  • 35 community eNewsletters

Sign In

Forgotten your details? Click Here
If you are not a member you can join here

*Please note: By logging into you agree to accept the use of cookies. To find out more about the cookies we use and how to delete them, see our privacy policy.

Related Content

Anti-Inflammatory Drugs Could Help Treat Depression
Anti-inflammatory drugs could be used to treat some cases of depression, which further implicates our immune system in mental health disorders.
Thursday, October 20, 2016
Quadruple Helix DNA Aids Cancer Therapies
Researchers have identified the role that a four-stranded version of DNA may play in the role of cancer progression.
Wednesday, September 21, 2016
Gene Signature in Healthy Brains Pinpoints
Researchers have identified a specific signature of a group of genes in the regions of the brain which are most vulnerable to Alzheimer’s disease.
Saturday, August 13, 2016
Virus Attracts Bumblebees to Infected Plants by Changing Scent
Study of bee-manipulating plant virus reveals that replicating the scent caused by infection could encourage declining bee populations to pollinate crops.
Friday, August 12, 2016
Newly-discovered Mechanism Influences How Immune Cells ‘Eat’ Invading Bacteria
A new mechanism that affects how our immune cells perform – and hence their ability to prevent disease – has been discovered by an international team of researchers led by Cambridge scientists.
Wednesday, August 03, 2016
Cellular Origin of Skin Cancer Identified
Scientists have identified ‘cell of origin’ in the most common form of skin cancer, and followed the process that leads to tumour growth.
Tuesday, July 12, 2016
Identifying Side-Effects At Early Stages Of Drug Development
An approach that could reduce the chances of drugs failing during the later stages of clinical trials has been demonstrated by a collaboration between the University of Cambridge and pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline (GSK).
Friday, June 03, 2016
A Shaggy Dog Story: The Contagious Cancer That Conquered The World
A contagious form of cancer that can spread between dogs during mating has highlighted the extent to which dogs accompanied human travellers throughout our seafaring history. But the tumours also provide surprising insights into how cancers evolve by ‘stealing’ DNA from their host.
Wednesday, May 18, 2016
Number Of Known Genetic Risk Factors For Endometrial Cancer Doubled
An international collaboration of researchers has identified five new gene regions that increase a woman’s risk of developing endometrial cancer, one of the most common cancers to affect women, taking the number of known gene regions associated with the disease to nine.
Wednesday, May 04, 2016
Genetic Variant May Help Explain Why Labradors Are Prone To Obesity
A genetic variation associated with obesity and appetite in Labrador retrievers – the UK and US’s favourite dog breed – has been identified by scientists at the University of Cambridge. The finding may explain why Labrador retrievers are more likely to become obese than dogs of other breeds.
Wednesday, May 04, 2016
Limbs May Have Evolved From Sharks’ Gills
Latest analysis shows that human limbs share a genetic programme with the gills of cartilaginous fishes such as sharks and skates, providing evidence to support a century-old theory on the origin of limbs that had been widely discounted.
Wednesday, April 20, 2016
Very Early Stage Human Stem Cell Lines Developed
Scientists at the University of Cambridge have for the first time shown that it is possible to derive from a human embryo so-called ‘naïve’ pluripotent stem cells – one of the most flexible types of stem cell, which can develop into all human tissue other than the placenta.
Monday, March 14, 2016
Could the Food we Eat Affect Our Genes?
Almost all of our genes may be influenced by the food we eat, according to new research.
Friday, February 12, 2016
Stem Cells Likely to be Safe for Use in Regenerative Medicine
Cambridge researchers have found the strongest evidence to date that human pluripotent stem cells – cells that can give rise to all tissues of the body – will develop normally once transplanted into an embryo.
Monday, December 21, 2015
The Manufacturing Challenges of Nanotechnology
Head of NanoManufacturing at the Department of Engineering’s Institute for Manufacturing (IfM) Dr Michaël de Volder explains why manufacturing carbon nanotubes is so difficult – and so important.
Thursday, December 03, 2015
Scientific News
Integrated Omics Analysis
Studying multi-omics promises to give a more holistic picture of the organism and its place in its ecosystem, however despite the complexities involved those within the field are optimistic.
Unravelling the Role of Key Genes and DNA Methylation in Blood Cell Malignancies
Researchers from the University of Nebraska Medical Center have demonstrated the role of Dnmt3a in safeguarding normal haematopoiesis.
Salford Lung Study - The First Real World Clinical Trial
In this podcast, we learn about the Salford Lung Study and its potential to revolutionize the way we assess new drugs and treatments around the world.
Point of Care Diagnostics - A Cautious Revolution
Advances in molecular biology, coupled with the miniaturization and improved sensitivity of assays and devices in general, have enabled a new wave of point-of-care (POC) or “bedside” diagnostics.
Gene Therapy Going Global with Portable Device
Portable 'gene therapy in a box' could make future cancer and HIV cures affordable in developing countries.
Preventing "Friendly Fire" in the Pancreas
Researchers inhibit process that leads to the body attacking its own insulin-producing cells.
3D-Printed Heart-On-A-Chip with Integrated Sensors
Researchers have created the first 3D-printed organ-on-a-chip with integrated sensors, paving the way for more complex, customizable devices.
Wrapping up the Genome
Researchers successfully package complete yeast genome using purified components, yielding new insights into genome mechanisms.
Drug Target for Triple-Negative Breast Cancer Found
A team of researchers led by UC San Francisco scientists has identified a new drug target for triple-negative breast cancer.
Precision Medicine Guiding Cancer Patients’ Chemotherapy Decision
New study finds doctors use genetic test to measure breast cancer recurrence risk, make tailored treatment recommendations.
Scroll Up
Scroll Down
Skyscraper Banner

Skyscraper Banner
Go to LabTube
Go to eposters
Access to the latest scientific news
Exclusive articles
Upload and share your posters on ePosters
Latest presentations and webinars
View a library of 1,800+ scientific and medical posters
3,500+ scientific and medical posters
A library of 2,500+ scientific videos on LabTube
5,200+ scientific videos