The Nobel Prize in medicine was awarded today to three stem-cell researchers who developed techniques for manipulating genes in mice. Mario R. Capecchi, Martin J. Evans and Oliver Smithies pioneered a process called gene targeting that allows specific genes to be turned on or off. This in turn allows scientists to study how those genes affect the body and interact with diseases.
Gene targeting in mice has been used in research on heart disease, diabetes, cancer, cystic fibrosis and other diseases, the AP reports. Evans, director of the University of Cardiff’s school of biosciences, is credited with the discovery of embryonic stem cells in 1981, reports the Guardian. Capecchi and Smithies both emigrated to the United States, where they are at the University of Utah and the University of North Carolina, respectively.