This year’s Nobel Prize in Chemistry has been awarded jointly to Tomas Lindahl, Paul Modrich, and Aziz Sancar for their work on the mechanistic studies of DNA repair.

Their worked mapped at a molecular level how cells repair damaged DNA and protect genetic information.

“Their work has provided fundamental knowledge of how a living cell functions and is, for instance, used for the development of new cancer treatments,” the Nobel committee said in a statement.

Lindahl, of the Francis Crick Institute and Clare Hall Laboratory, in Hertfordshire, showed the rate at which DNA decayed should have made life on Earth impossible. His work led him to base excision repair, a molecular machinery that constantly counteracts our DNA’s collapse.

Sancar, of the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, mapped nucleotide excision repair, which cells use to repair damage to DNA by UV radiation.  An improperly functioning repair mechanism can lead to skin cancer.

Modrich, of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and Duke University School of Medicine, in Durham, North Carolina, showed how mismatch repair works. Mismatch repair is the mechanism by which cells correct errors that occur when DNA is replicated during cell division—reducing the error frequency by about a thousandfold. Congenital defects in mismatch repair can cause a hereditary variant of colon cancer.

“My wife took the call and woke me up,” Sancar said upon receivng the news. You can listen to his full interview here:

We’ll post the interviews with Lindahl and Modrich when they are up.

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