© The Nobel Foundation. Photo: U. Montan
Jack W. Szostak
The Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine 2009
Born: 9 November 1952, London, United Kingdom
Affiliation at the time of the award: Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA, USA, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, MA, USA, Howard Hughes Medical Institute
Prize motivation: "for the discovery of how chromosomes are protected by telomeres and the enzyme telomerase."
Prize share: 1/3
An organism's genes are stored within DNA molecules, which are found in chromosomes inside its cells' nuclei. When a cell divides, it is important that its chromosomes are copied in full, and that they are not damaged. At each end of a chromosome lies a "cap" or telomere, as it is known, which protects it. After Elizabeth Blackburn discovered that telomeres have a particular DNA, through experiments conducted on ciliates and yeast, she and Jack Szostak proved in 1982 that the telomeres' DNA prevents chromosomes from being broken down.