David Bartel honored by French academy

June 15, 2005

Tags: Bartel LabAwards + Announcements

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. (June 15, 2005) — Whitehead Institute Member David Bartel is one of two scientists to receive the annual Louis-D. Prize from the Institut de France, an organization similar in many respects to the National Academy of Sciences in the United States. He will receive the award for 750,000 euros at a ceremony in Paris on June 15, along with fellow recipient Ronald Plasterk of the Netherlands Institute for Developmental Biology.

Bartel's research has recently been highlighted by the discovery of the abundance of microRNAs, molecules that play an active role in regulating the genomes of both plants and mammals by interrupting a gene’s ability to produce protein. It wasn't until 2000 that scientists were aware that these molecules existed in humans. Now, as shown in a recent Cell paper, Bartel and his colleagues have found that more than one third of the human genes are at least partially controlled by microRNAs. And, Bartel says, that number is a conservative estimate. This starkly contradicts the long-held assumption that RNA is little more than a passive intermediary between DNA and protein.

This area of research is also exciting due to its potential therapeutic applications. For example, using a technique known as RNA interference, or RNAi, researchers are shutting off genes by delivering into cells artificial microRNA-like molecules called short interfering RNAs (siRNAs). Learning more about how microRNAs operate in human cells should help scientists to understand how best to exploit siRNAs for treating disease.

The Institut de France has 390 members and comprises five academies: the French Academy, the Academy of Literature, the Academy of Sciences, the Academy of the Fine Arts, and the Academy of Ethics and Political Science. The French Academy, the oldest of the five, was founded in 1635. The Institut’s mission is to promote and fund advances in arts and sciences.

Past recipients of the Louis-D. Prize include Margaret Pericak-Vance, director of the Duke University Center for Human Genetics; Stanislas Dehaene of the Institut National de la Santé et de la Recherche Médicale (INSERM, the French equivalent of the National Institutes of Health in the U.S.); and Hartmut Wekerle of the Max Planck Institute of Neurobiology.

Written by David Cameron.


Communications and Public Affairs
Phone: 617-258-6851
Email: newsroom@wi.mit.edu


Study finds nearly one-third of human genome regulated by RNA

Whitehead Institute is a world-renowned non-profit research institution dedicated to improving human health through basic biomedical research.
Wholly independent in its governance, finances, and research programs, Whitehead shares a close affiliation with Massachusetts Institute of Technology
through its faculty, who hold joint MIT appointments.

© Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research              455 Main Street          Cambridge, MA 02142