Americans Win Nobel for Work in Genetic Therapy This year's Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine goes to two American researchers, Andrew Fire of Stanford University and Craig Mello of the University of Massachusetts. The pair, who discovered how to selectively silence genes that cause disease, will share the $1.4 million prize.

Americans Win Nobel for Work in Genetic Therapy

Americans Win Nobel for Work in Genetic Therapy

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Detail from a graphic showing a basic test involving RNA. Annika Rohl/Nobel Committee hide caption

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Animated Primer

This year's Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine goes to two American researchers, Andrew Fire of Stanford University and Craig Mello of the University of Massachusetts. The pair, who discovered how to selectively silence genes that cause disease, will share the $1.4 million prize.

Fire and Mello focused on RNA interference, a way of affecting how the genetic code from DNA is translated into a working protein.

Each gene contains the instructions to make a particular protein. Some of the proteins are good proteins, but some are bad, like cholesterol.

Fire and Mello discovered that special types of RNA could interfere with protein production. Their work, published in 1998, could eventually be applied to cancer and AIDS research.

The RNA interference research is not yet being used on humans -- it's only in animal experiments right now.

Earlier this year, a promising study was published that showed RNA interference could be used to block a certain type of cholesterol. In the study, a small bit of RNA blocked the production of the cholesterol protein.