The Nobel Assembly at Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm, Sweden announced today that the 2008 Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine would be shared by the discoverers of HPV (human papilloma virus) that causes cervical cancer, and the HIV (human immunodeficiency virus), both sexually transmitted viruses.
Discovery of human papilloma virus causing cervical cancer
Dr. Harald zur Hausen from the German Cancer Research Centre in Heidelberg, Germany, won half of the Nobel Prize for the discovery of the HPV cervical cancer virus. He spent more than 10 years searching for the particular HPV viruses that cause cervical cancer. HPV has been found in 99.7 percent of cervical cancers, but there are more than 100 types of HPV, 40 that infect the genital tract, and 15 in particular that put women at high risk for cervical cancer.
Dr. zur Hausen succeeded not only in detecting the particular HPV that induced cancer, but in identifying the DNA predisposition that makes certain women at higher risk for cervical cancer. From his discoveries, vaccines were developed to provide protection from infection, specifically for two of zur Hausen's identified cancer producers, HPV16 and HPV18.
Discovery of HIV
Dr, Françoise Barré-Sinoussi of Regulation of Retroviral Infections Unit, Virology Department, Institut Pasteur, Paris, France and Dr. Luc Montagnier of the World Foundation for AIDS Research and Prevention, Paris, France share the Nobel Prize for Medicine with Dr. zur Hausen.
In 1981, when reports were made of a new immunodeficiency syndrome, Dr. Barré-Sinoussi and Dr. Montagnier were one of the teams that went to work studying the cells of this disease. By examining the lymph nodes of patients who exhibited swollen lymph nodes, one of the first symptoms of an acquired immune deficiency, Barré-Sinoussi and Montagnier were able to observe how the HIV attacked human cells, and to differentiate the HIV from cancer cells by the way the cells multiplied. The researchers identified the HIV as a lentivirus, characterized primarily by a slow growth process. As well, the pair were able to identify the means of transmission from sexually infected individuals, haemophiliacs, mother to infant and transfused patients.
Though much study on HIV has continued through to today, the foundational work of Barré-Sinoussi and Montagnier is credited with making rapid cloning of the HIV-1 genome possible, deading to diagnostic methods and blood screening products, and the development of several classes of new antiviral drugs.
via Nobel Prize.org