Chemistry Nobel Prize 2020 to two women: revolutionary discovery on DNA

The 2020 Nobel Prize in Chemistry was awarded to Emmanuelle Charpentier e Jennifer A. Doudna: the two researchers have perfected the technique Crisprr, which allows you to cut and paste the DNA, thus rewriting the code of life. An award shared equally by French biochemistry and American chemistry: thanks to their discovery they have opened the way to many therapies that were once impossible.

Two women Nobel Prize in chemistry: who are the scientists

For the first time in the history of Nobel Prizes dedicated to science, two women shared the most coveted prize by researchers from all over the world. Since its inception, in 1901, it has been assigned as a whole until now to just five women. Jennifer A. Doudna, 56, was born in 1964 a Washington. After her studies at Harvard University, she moved to the University of California, Berkeley, where she still works today. Emmanuelle Charpentier, 52, was born in 1968 in Juvisy-sur-Orge. He completed his studies at the Pasteur Institute and is currently working in Germany, in Berlin, where he directs the Max Planck Unit Institute for Pathogen Sciences.

In his speech, the Charpentier she stated that women can leave an important mark in science and it is equally important that “girls who want to work in research” know it. The Frenchwoman added that she hoped the Nobel received shows that “women can also have an impact through the research they do”.

Nobel Prize in chemistry, what is Crispr: the technique that ‘cuts and pastes’ DNA

The technique that cuts and glues the DNA, the Crispr (Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats), was developed in 2013 by Jennifer Doudna ed Emmanuelle Charpentier. However, the Nobel prize awarded to them was highly anticipated, as the two scientists provided an unprecedented tool to rewrite the code of life.

Crispr is a ‘scissors‘natural that allows you to cut the DNA in specific points. It is inspired by the functioning of a common immune defense system among the battery. In fact, the technique allows to cancel, replace and literally rewrite entire sequences of the genetic code using the protein naturally present in a bacterium (called Cas9 endonuclease), guided in the exact point of the DNA to be ‘cut’ by an Rna molecule.

Crispr appeared in newspapers in April 2015, when it was used in China to rewrite the DNA of a embryo. In 2016, again in the Asian country, it was used on embryos to make them resistant to HIV virus.

What can be done thanks to Crispr: even the anti Covid tests

The Crispr technique is a very high precision instrument. It can be used from tumors to thalassemia, through cystic fibrosis, mosquito fighting and genetically modified plants, up to tests anti Covid. The thalassemia, known as Mediterranean anemia, was one of the first target diseases of Crispr.

Attention was drawn to the application of the technique to treat an aggressive form of leukemia in a little girl. In mice, a form of muscular dystrophy and a genetic disease that leads to blindness were treated. Crispr then made it possible to retouch the DNA of the mosquitoes to make them harmless, as a possible weapon antimalaria.


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