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Chemistry Nobel honors studies of DNA repair mechanisms

dna ligase

Specialized proteins (blue and yellow) can repair damaged DNA. The 2015 Nobel Prize in chemistry was awarded to three researchers who determined how the cell works to protect genetic material in the face of environmental damages or DNA-copying errors.

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Studies of DNA’s repair mechanisms have won Tomas Lindahl, Paul Modrich and Aziz Sancar the 2015 Nobel Prize in chemistry.

DNA encodes the instructions for building and conducting life. But it’s a fragile molecule that can be altered or damaged by sunlight, toxic chemicals, radiation or even normal chemical reactions inside the cell.

Lindahl, of the Francis Crick Institute in England, determined that DNA isn’t actually very stable: It can fall apart on its own, without injury. He described how a cell can remove and replace damaged genetic building blocks.

Sometimes, the cell makes mistakes while copying DNA. Modrich’s work revealed how a cell can correct these genetic errors by replacing DNA’s individual constituents. Modrich is a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator at Duke University. 

Sancar, of the University of North Carolina School of Medicine, uncovered which proteins are responsible for patching DNA up after ultraviolet damage, and how they work.

A more detailed story about the prize-winning research will follow later today.

Particle Physics,, Cosmology

Discovery of neutrino mass earns 2015 physics Nobel

By Andrew Grant 6:41am, October 6, 2015
The discovery that subatomic particles called neutrinos have mass has won Takaaki Kajita of the University of Tokyo and Arthur McDonald of Queen’s University in Kingston, Canada, the 2015 Nobel Prize in physics.
Plants,, Animals,, Biophysics

Raindrops help pitcher plants trap dinner

By Sarah Schwartz 3:00pm, October 5, 2015
Pitcher plants use the force of falling raindrops to fling prey into their traps.
Plants,, Animals

Stinky seeds dupe dung beetles

By Sarah Schwartz 11:00am, October 5, 2015
Seeds that look and smell like animal poop can trick dung beetles into spreading and burying the seeds.
Health,, Biomedicine

Therapies against roundworm, malaria parasites win medicine Nobel

By Tina Hesman Saey 6:16am, October 5, 2015
The 2015 Nobel Prize in medicine or physiology was awarded to Youyou Tu for her work in counteracting malaria, and to William Campbell and Satoshi Omura for work on treatments against roundworm parasites.
Biomedicine,, Health

Sperm protein may offer target for male contraceptive

By Meghan Rosen 5:24pm, October 1, 2015
With the identification of a new sperm protein that helps sperm penetrate eggs, researchers may be closer to developing birth control pills for men.

Kavli Foundation gives more money for the brain

By Laura Sanders 5:01pm, October 1, 2015
The Kavli Foundation will provide $100 million toward solving the mysteries of the brain.

This may be the world's tiniest snail

By Helen Thompson 3:58pm, September 30, 2015
Tiny snail unearthed in China could be the world's smallest, researchers report.
Animals,, Biophysics

Some bats chug nectar with conveyor belt tongues

By Helen Thompson 6:30am, September 29, 2015
Grooved bat tongues work like escalators or conveyor belts, transporting nectar from tip to mouth.
Planetary Science

Salt streaks sign of present-day water flows on Mars

By Christopher Crockett 11:00am, September 28, 2015
Salt deposits on Mars hint at contemporary seasonal water flows on the Red Planet.
Animals,, Microbes

Don't judge a whale's gut microbiome by diet alone

By Helen Thompson 2:30pm, September 25, 2015
Evolutionary history and diet may both determine the microbes that live in a baleen whale's stomach, researchers report.
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