FROM T HE H ILL
Oliver Smithies Wins Lasker Research Award
Oliver Smithies, excellence profes- ; sor of pathology in the UNC El School of Medicine, is one of ~
four scientists who has received the 2001
Albert Lasker Medical Research Awards.
The Lasker Award, among dle nation's
most prestigious honors - often called
"America's Nobel" - recognizes extraordinary contributions to basic and clinical
medical research. The award was
announced Sept. 16.
Smithies shares the award for basic
medical research with Mario Capecchi of
the University of Utah and Martin Evans
of Cardiff University in Wales. The drree
scientists devised a revolutionary technology for manipulating embryonic stem cells
in mice to create aninlal models of human
disease. Their experinlentation led to the
ability to produce models for hundreds of
human diseases, including Alzheimer's,
cystic fibrosis, cancer and arteriosclerosis.
Using this "knockout" technology, so
called because scientists disable or "knock
out" a selected gene, scientists now can
explore new theories in their study of
human illness, and the pharmaceutical
industry can test new drugs in ways not
previously possible. The altered mice also
provide insight to essential physiological
questions, including how dle inm1llne system protects dle body and how an
embryo's brain develops.
Along with Capecchi, Smithies persevered in moclif Ying a specific gene in the
cell by replacing it with an altered version.
Although many other scientists doubted
the possibility of success, Smidues contin-
ued to create a laborious method to search
for the rare cells in which gene integration
occurred. His discoveries in dle nud-1980s
proved the possibilities of precise, planned
modification of genes. His work, c
om-bined with that of Capecchi and Evans,
opened coundess doors in the medical
field, and now scientists around me world
can breed and study lnice with specific
pathologies, assess me purposes of genes in
a whole artin1al, and dissect in complex
and previously unfeasible procedures.
- Jessie Tucker
Nove m be r / D ece m ber 200 I