Mario Capecchi

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Mario Ramberg Capecchi
Born (1937-10-06) October 6, 1937 (age 83)
Verona, Italy
Nationality Italian, American
Fields Genetics
Institutions Harvard School of Medicine
University of Utah
Alma mater George School
Antioch College, Ohio
Harvard University
Thesis On the Mechanism of Suppression and Polypeptide Chain Initiation (1967)
Doctoral advisor James D. Watson
Known for Knockout mouse Hox genes
Notable awards Kyoto Prize (1996)
Franklin Medal (1997)
Albert Lasker Award for Basic Medical Research (2001)
Massry Prize (2002)
Wolf Prize in Medicine (2002)
Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine (2007)

Mario Ramberg Capecchi (Verona, Italy, 6 October 1937) is an Italian-born American molecular geneticist and a co-winner of the 2007 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for discovering a method to create mice in which a specific gene is turned off, known as knockout mice.[1][2][3][4][5] He shared the prize with Martin Evans and Oliver Smithies.[6] He is currently Distinguished Professor of Human Genetics and Biology at the University of Utah School of Medicine.[7][8][9][10][11]


Mario Capecchi was born in Verona, Italy, as the only child of Luciano Capecchi, an Italian airman who would be later reported as missing in action while manning an anti-aircraft gun in the Western Desert Campaign,[12] and Lucy Ramberg, an American-born[13] daughter of Impressionist painter Lucy Dodd Ramberg and German archaeologist Walter Ramberg. During World War II, his mother was sent to the Dachau concentration camp[13] as punishment for pamphleteering and belonging to an anti-Fascist group.[14] Prior to her arrest[15] she had made contingency plans by selling her belongings and giving the proceeds to a peasant family near Bolzano[12] to provide housing for her only child. However, after one year,[16] the money was exhausted and the family was unable to care for him. At four-and-a-half years old he was left to fend for himself, living as a street child on the streets of northern Italy for the next four years,[12] living in various orphanages and roving through towns with groups of other homeless children.[16]

He almost died of malnutrition. His mother, meanwhile, had been freed from Dachau and began a year-long search for him. She finally found him in a hospital bed in Reggio Emilia,[12] ill with a fever and subsisting on a daily bowl of chicory coffee and bread crust. She took him to Rome, where he had his first bath in six years.[16]

In 1946 his uncle, Edward Ramberg, an American physicist at RCA, sent his sister money to return to the United States. He and his mother moved to Pennsylvania to live at an "intentionally cooperative community" called Bryn Gweled,[17] which had been co-founded by his uncle. (Capecchi's other maternal uncle, Walter Ramberg, was also an American physicist who served as the tenth president of the Society for Experimental Stress Analysis.[18]) He graduated from George School, a Quaker boarding school in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, in 1956.[15]

Mario Capecchi received his Bachelor of Science in chemistry and physics in 1961 from Antioch College in Ohio. Capecchi came to MIT as a graduate student intending to study physics and mathematics,[19] but during the course of his studies, he became interested in molecular biology. He subsequently transferred to Harvard to join the lab of James D. Watson, co-discoverer of the structure of DNA.[20] Capecchi received his Ph.D. in biophysics in 1967[21] from Harvard University, with his doctoral thesis completed under the tutelage of Watson.

Capecchi was a Junior Fellow of the Society of Fellows at Harvard University from 1967 to 1969. In 1969 he became an Assistant Professor in the Department of Biochemistry at Harvard Medical School. He was promoted to Associate Professor in 1971. In 1973 he joined the faculty at the University of Utah. Since 1988 Capecchi has also been an investigator of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. He is a member of the National Academy of Sciences. He has given a talk for Duke University's Program in Genetics and Genomics as part of their Distinguished Lecturer Series.[22] He was the speaker for the 2010 Racker Lectures in Biology & Medicine and Cornell Distinguished Lecture in Cell and Molecular Biology at Cornell University. [23]

After the Nobel committee publicly announced that Capecchi had won the Nobel prize, an Austrian woman named Marlene Bonelli claimed that Capecchi was her long-lost half-brother.[24] In May 2008, Capecchi met with Bonelli, 69, in northern Italy, and confirmed that she was his sister.[25]

Knockout mice

Capecchi won the Nobel prize for creating a knockout mouse. This is a mouse, created by genetic engineering and in vitro fertilization, in which a particular gene has been turned off.[26] For this work, Capecchi won the 2007 Nobel prize for medicine or physiology, along with Martin Evans and Oliver Smithies, who also contributed.

Capecchi has also pursued a systematic analysis of the mouse Hox gene family. This gene family plays a key role in the control of embryonic development in all multicellular animals. They determine the placement of cellular development in the proper order along the axis of the body from head to toe.



  1. Thomas, K. R.; Capecchi, M. R. (1987). "Site-directed mutagenesis by gene targeting in mouse embryo-derived stem cells". Cell. 51 (3): 503–512. doi:10.1016/0092-8674(87)90646-5. PMID 2822260.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. Mansour, S. L.; Thomas, K. R.; Capecchi, M. R. (1988). "Disruption of the proto-oncogene int-2 in mouse embryo-derived stem cells: A general strategy for targeting mutations to non-selectable genes". Nature. 336 (6197): 348–352. doi:10.1038/336348a0. PMID 3194019.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. Capecchi, M. R. (1980). "High efficiency transformation by direct microinjection of DNA into cultured mammalian cells". Cell. 22 (2 Pt 2): 479–488. doi:10.1016/0092-8674(80)90358-x. PMID 6256082.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. Chisaka, O.; Capecchi, M. R. (1991). "Regionally restricted developmental defects resulting from targeted disruption of the mouse homeobox gene hox-1.5". Nature. 350 (6318): 473–479. doi:10.1038/350473a0. PMID 1673020.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. Thomas, K. R.; Folger, K. R.; Capecchi, M. R. (1986). "High frequency targeting of genes to specific sites in the mammalian genome". Cell. 44 (3): 419–428. doi:10.1016/0092-8674(86)90463-0. PMID 3002636.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  6. 6.0 6.1 "The Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine 2007". Retrieved 2007-10-08.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  7. List of publications from Microsoft Academic Search
  8. Kain, K. (2008). "The first transgenic mice: An interview with Mario Capecchi". Disease Models and Mechanisms. 1 (4–5): 197–201. doi:10.1242/dmm.001966. PMC 2590805. PMID 19093023.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  9. Cohen-Tannoudji, M. (2007). "Prix Nobel de Médecine 2007". Médecine/sciences. 23 (12): 1159–1161. doi:10.1051/medsci/200723121159. PMID 18154719.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  10. Capecchi, M. (2005). "An Interview with". Nature Reviews Genetics. 6 (6): 434. doi:10.1038/nrg1647. PMID 15934189.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  11. Dennis, C. (2004). "Mario Capecchi: From rags to research". Nature. 430 (6995): 10–11. doi:10.1038/430010a. PMID 15229575.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  12. 12.0 12.1 12.2 12.3 Vittorio Zucconi (2007-10-07). "Ero un ragazzo di strada mia madre mi ha salvato" (in Italian). La Repubblica.CS1 maint: unrecognized language (link)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  13. 13.0 13.1 Lois M. Collins (2007-10-08). "U. scientist Capecchi wins Nobel Prize". Deseret Morning News.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  14. Troy Goodman (2001-09-16). "U. scientist Mario Cappechi scores a 'knockout'". Salt Lake Tribune. Retrieved 2007-10-08.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  15. 15.0 15.1 Susan Sample (2007). "Scientist Profile: Mario Capecchi". University of Utah.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  16. 16.0 16.1 16.2 Christopher Lee (2007-10-10). "From Child on Street to Nobel Laureate". Washington Post.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  17. American Philosophical Society. "Edward G. Ramberg Papers". American Philosophical Society.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  18. C.E. Taylor. "A tribute to Walter Ramberg".<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  19. Andrew Gumbel (2007-10-09). "Mario Capecchi: The man who changed our world". Belfast Telegraph.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  20. Arkajit Dey (2007-10-16). "Two Nobel Prize Winners MIT-Affiliated". The Tech. Italic or bold markup not allowed in: |publisher= (help)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  21. Capecchi, Mario (1967). On the Mechanism of Suppression and Polypeptide Chain Initiation (PhD thesis). Harvard University.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  22. "Distinguished Lecture Series". Duke University.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  23. "MBG Annual Racker Lecture". Cornell University.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  24. Peter Popham (2007-10-18). "Reunion beckons for Nobel winner and his long lost step-sister". Belfast Telegraph.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  25. "'Looking at the pictures, it was obviously my sister,' Capecchi said, noting her resemblance to their mother."Associated Press (2008-06-06). "Nobel Winner Reunited With Sister Lost in WWII". ABC News.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  26. University of Utah, Transgenic Mice
  27. "2001 Albert Lasker Award for Basic Medical Research". Lasker Foundation. Archived from the original on 2007-09-30. Retrieved 2007-10-01.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  28. National Science Foundation - The President's National Medal of Science

External links