Sydney Brenner

Brenner, Sydney, 1927–, British molecular biologist, Ph.D. Oxford, 1954. He was director of the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge, England (1979–86), and director of the MRC Molecular Genetics Unit (1986–91) before joining (1996–) the Salk Institute, La Jolla, Calif., where he is currently distinguished research professor. With H. Robert Horvitz and John E. Sulston, Brenner received the 2002 Nobel Prize in Medicine or Physiology for discoveries relating to the genetic regulation of organ development and programmed cell death. Brenner is credited with laying the foundation for the work by establishing the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans as a model organism for genetic studies. The .04-in.-long (1-mm) worm has a short life cycle, allowing researchers to learn substantial information about organ development and cell death in a relatively short period of time, and it is transparent, enabling cell division to be observed directly under a microscope. Brenner demonstrated that a chemical compound could induce gene mutations in the nematode and that different mutations could be tied to specific genes.

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