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Nobel Prizes in Science Breakdown

Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine: Harvey J. Alter, Michael Houghton and Charles M. Rice have been jointly awarded the prize for the discovery of Hepatitis C virus. They have contributed to the fight against a virus which threatened global health - Hepatitis (derived from the Greek word for liver and inflammation) which may result in liver cancer and cirrhosis. A group of those afflicted by the illness could not be categorised in Hepatitis A and B, leaving specialists puzzled and patients with unexplainable symptoms. This discovery has meant that new possible blood tests, medicines like targeted antiviral drugs and has led to a better understanding of the causes of Hepatitis. For the first time in the medical history, Hepatitis C can be cured and possibly eradicated from the world.

Nobel Prize in Physics: awarded to Roger Penrose. Reinhard Genzel and Andrea Ghez. The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences has awarded the prize “for the discovery that black hole formation is a robust prediction of the general theory of relativity” and “for the discovery of a supermassive compact object at the centre of our galaxy”. In short, Penrose showed that the general theory of relativity leads to the formation of black holes using complex mathematical models based on Albert Einstein’s theory. Genzel and Ghez discovered that there is an extremely heavy and invisible object at the centre of the Milky Way (the only present explanation is that it is a supermassive black hole). There are still many postulations and questions to be solved but these scientists have marked the start of the newly developed discipline of studying these compact and supermassive objects in space.

Nobel Prize in Chemistry: awarded to the development of a method for genome editing - CRISPR/Cas9. The two Nobel Laureates are Emmanuelle Charpentier and Jennifer A. Doudna. CRISPR/Cas9 enhances the antiviral immune system of bacteria to form a tool that can edit (and rewrite) the genome with great precision. The antiviral system in a certain type of bacteria disarms viruses by cleaving their DNA. This was originally discovered by Charpentier, who later teamed up with Jennifer Doudna, a biochemist experienced in areas involving RNA. The potential of these genetic scissors is that of creating new cancer therapies and possibly curing genetically inherited diseases. However it has widespread applications, not only in the field of medicine, but also in vegetal and environmental research.

Laura L, Year 13

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