Nobel winners uncover DNA findings for cancer cures

Other 2015 winners have shed new light on the cosmos.

Research into DNA that has led to cancer-curing drugs and new insights into the cosmos have won five scientists Nobel Prizes.

The 2015 prize for chemistry is shared by Tomas Lindahl, of Sweden; Paul Modrich, of the US; and Aziz Sancar, a dual American and Turkish citizen.

The prize for physics has been shared by Takaaki Kajita, of Japan, and Arthur B McDonald, of Canada, for their work on particles called neutrinos.

The DNA research – done independently by the three winners – describes how cells repair damaged DNA.

This has provided crucial insights into how a living cell functions, about the molecular causes of several hereditary diseases, and about mechanisms behind both cancer development and aging, the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences says in its citation.

The research has led to breakthroughs that are helping to guide the development of new cancer drugs.

Dr Lindahl is emeritus director of Cancer Research UK at Clare Hall Laboratory. Dr Modrich is a professor of biochemistry at Duke University School of Medicine in Durham, North Carolina. Dr Sancar is a professor of biochemistry and biophysics at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine in Chapel Hill.

Understanding the cosmos
The two physics winners established that neutrinos, which are the second-most abundant particles in the cosmos after light-producing photons, can change identities.

They also possess mass and these insights both deepened and challenged understanding about how the universe works, the academy says..

Neutrinos are constantly being created – in the nuclear reactions that power the stars, in radioactive decays and in nuclear power stations.

But even though they are endemic, neutrinos are notoriously hard to detect. They only rarely interact with other forms of matter. At any given moment, billions of these ghostly particles harmlessly pass through a person’s body.

Dr Kajita is a professor at the University of Tokyo and Dr McDonald is professor emeritus at Queen’s University in Kingston, Canada.

The Nobel Prize for economics will be announced on October 9.

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