Sweden’s Tomas Lindahl, American Paul Modrich and US-Turkish scientist Aziz Sancar have won the Nobel Prize in chemistry for “mechanistic studies of DNA repair”.
The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences said their work “has provided fundamental knowledge of how a living cell functions”.
Their findings have been used for the development of new cancer treatments, among other things, the academy said.
Lindahl, 77, is an emeritus group leader at Francis Crick Institute and emeritus director of Cancer Research UK at Clare Hall Laboratory in Britain.
Modrich, born in 1946, is an investigator at Howard Hughes Medical Institute and professor at Duke University School of Medicine, Durham, North Carolina.
Sancar, 69, is a professor at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.
The eight million Swedish kronor (€861,000) award will be handed out along with the other Nobel Prizes on December 10, the anniversary of prize founder Alfred Nobel’s death in 1896.
This year’s medicine prize went to scientists from Japan, the US and China who discovered drugs to fight malaria and other tropical diseases. Japanese and Canadian scientists won the physics prize for discovering that tiny particles called neutrinos have mass.
The Nobel announcements continue with literature on Thursday, the Nobel Peace Prize on Friday and the economics award on Monday.
The academy said DNA was thought to be a stable molecule until the 1970s when Lindahl showed that it decays at a fast rate. Our DNA is damaged by ultraviolet rays from the sun and carcinogenic substances.
Sancar mapped a mechanism that cells use to repair ultraviolet damage to DNA while Modrich showed how the cell corrects errors when DNA is replicated during cell division, the academy said.
It said their research “has not only deepened our knowledge of how we function, but could also lead to the development of life-saving treatments”.