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MGH researcher Gary Ruvkun named a co-recipient of the Lasker Award
Date:9/13/2008

discovery that plant genes could be silenced by the action of tiny RNAs similar to the worm sequences studied by Ruvkun and Ambros implied that the same mechanism operated in plants and animals.

In 2000 Ruvkun's team discovered let-7, another tiny regulatory RNA that shuts down its target gene the same way that lin-4 silences lin-14. They also found that the let-7 RNA sequence had been snipped out of a larger RNA molecule that folds back on itself in a hairpin shape. Later that year Ruvkun published evidence that animals from fish to flies to humans have their own versions of let-7, implying that the mechanism is universal to all but the most primitive animal species.

In 2001 Ruvkun collaborated with Craig Mello, PhD, of UMass and Andrew Fire, PhD, then at the Carnegie Institution, to show that the microRNAs of both lin-4 and let-7 are released from their precursor hairpin RNA molecules by the enzyme Dicer, which is also critical to the RNA interference process that Mello and Fire had discovered and for which they received the 2006 Nobel Prize.

It now appears that the human genome contains between 500 and 1,000 microRNAs involved in a broad range of normal and disease-related activities. Researchers have just begun exploring their potential for the diagnosis, prognosis and treatment of disorders. In addition to continuing investigation of RNA's role in controlling gene expression, Ruvkun's team studies other mechanisms involved in the development, metabolism and longevity of C. elegans, including genes involved in the regulation and storage of fat.

Ruvkun is a professor of Genetics at Harvard Medical School and an investigator at the MGH Center for Computational and Integrative Biology. He holds a bachelor's degree in Biophysics from the University of California at Berkeley and a PhD in Biophysics from Harvard University. Among the many other awards he has received some shared with Ambros and Baulcombe are the Fra
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Contact: Sue McGreevey
smcgreevey@partners.org
617-724-2764
Massachusetts General Hospital
Source:Eurekalert

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