H. Robert Horvitz
H. Robert Horvitz was born on May 8, 1947, in Chicago,
was as an undergraduate at MIT in 1964. In 1968, he
entered graduate school in the Harvard Department of
Biology. After obtaining his doctorate, Horvitz moved
to England to continue his research on a fellowship
from the Muscular Dystrophy Association of America at
the Laboratory of Molecular Biology. He moved back to
Boston in January 1978, to accept a faculty position
in the MIT Department of Biology. Within a few years,
Horvitz was promoted to Professor of Biology at MIT.
He is also a member of the McGovern Institute for Brain
He is best known for his research on the nematode
worm Caenorhabditis elegans. He is also an investigator
at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute.
Horvitz shared the 2002 Nobel
Prize in Physiology or Medicine with Sydney
Brenner and John Sulston.
The following press release from the Royal Swedish
Academy of Sciences describes Horvitz's work:
The human body consists of hundreds of cell types,
all originating from the fertilized egg. During the
embryonic and foetal periods, the number of cells increase
dramatically. The cells mature and become specialized
to form the various tissues and organs of the body.
Large numbers of cells are formed also in the adult
body. In parallel with this generation of new cells,
cell death is a normal process, both in the foetus and
adult, to maintain the appropriate number of cells in
the tissues. This delicate, controlled elimination of
cells is called programmed cell death.
This year's Nobel Laureates in Physiology or Medicine
have made seminal discoveries concerning the genetic
regulation of organ development and programmed cell
death. By establishing and using the nematode Caenorhabditis
elegans as an experimental model system, possibilities
were opened to follow cell division and differentiation
from the fertilized egg to the adult. The Laureates
have identified key genes regulating organ development
and programmed cell death and have shown that corresponding
genes exist in higher species, including man. The discoveries
are important for medical research and have shed new
light on the pathogenesis of many diseases.
Robert Horvitz (b 1947), Cambridge, MA, USA, has discovered
and characterized key genes controlling cell death in
C. elegans. He has shown how these genes interact with
each other in the cell death process and that corresponding
genes exist in humans.