Well, more precisely, their alumni.
Andrew Fire of Stanford University who earned his PhD from M.I.T. in 1983 together with Craig Mello of University of Massachusetts who received his PhD at Harvard University in 1990 will be awarded the
for their 1998 discovery of
As many of us know from the basic school, the RNA molecule is normally a single-strand macromolecule that is only used as an intermediate prototype to store the information. The information is first copied from DNA to RNA and later, the RNA used for production of the proteins and other things in the cell. There are various types of RNA - messenger, transfer, ribosomal RNA. All of them have a single strand.
See the Saturday's genome video for DNA 101.
You may guess that I am only saying these things because they're irrelevant. Their discovery is actually about the double-strand RNA (dsRNA). The two strands are exactly in the same relation as the two strands of DNA. Some viruses use dsRNA to remember the genetic material. Some of us, the eukaryotes, are more advanced than the viruses and dsRNA is replaced by DNA.
Nevertheless, dsRNA can still occur and it has consequences. If a sequence of dsRNA mimics a sequence of a gene, it is able to suppress gene expression - a fancy word for the realization of the gene by the final products. Unlike other forms of gene silencing, this silencing can spread from a cell to another cell. In some sense, dsRNA acts as anti-DNA or, using a fancy analogy with software, pieces of DNA are identified as software worms while dsRNA acts as an anti-virus software that suppresses them.
Everything is about genes. But Evelyn Fox Keller, a feminist critic of science, the author of
- The Trouble With Biology: The Rise of the Genes, the Fall of a Science, and What Comes Next,
and a key supporter of a similar recent book still may keep some hopes when she sees the words "gene suppression". ;-) Nevertheless, so far, every Nobel prize and every advance in science seems to be bad news for the organized postmodern revolutionary movement to change science by political means.
Update: Five minutes ago, a user from umassmed.edu made a Google search with the words "Nobel prizes taxable" that led him, like thousands of other users every day, to an answer on this blog: unfortunately, Prof. Mello, Prof. Lawrence Summers has indeed made the Nobel prizes taxable in the U.S. ;-)