STOCKHOLM, Sweden (AP) -- Americans Andrew Z. Fire and Craig C. Mello won the Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine Monday for discovering a way to turn off the effect of specific genes.
"RNA interference" is already being widely used in basic science as a method to study the function of genes and it is being studied as a treatment for virus infections, heart diseases, cancer and several other conditions.
Fire, of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and Mello, of Harvard University, published their seminal work in 1998.
RNA interference occurs naturally in plants, animals, and humans. The Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, which awarded the prize, said it is important for regulating the activity of genes and helps defend against viral infection.
"This year's Nobel laureates have discovered a fundamental mechanism for controlling the flow of genetic information," the institute said.