x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 January 2018

Americans, German win Nobel Prize in medicine for cell transport research

Discoveries on how hormones, enzymes and other key substances are transported within cells have helped researchers better understand a range of diseases including diabetes and disorders affecting the immune system.

Professor Peter Higgs   Jeff Mitchell/Getty Images
Professor Peter Higgs Jeff Mitchell/Getty Images

STOCKHOLM // Americans James Rothman and Randy Schekman and German-born researcher Thomas Sudhof won the 2013 Nobel Prize in medicine today for discoveries on how hormones, enzymes and other key substances are transported within cells.

This traffic control system keeps activities inside cells from descending into chaos and has helped researchers gain a better understanding of a range of diseases including diabetes and disorders affecting the immune system, the committee said.

Working in the 1970s, ‘80s and ‘90s, the three researchers made ground-breaking discoveries about how tiny bubbles called vesicles act as cargo carriers inside cells. Above all, their work helps explain “how this cargo is delivered to the right place at the right time”, the committee said.

“Imagine hundreds of thousands of people who are travelling around hundreds of miles of streets; how are they going to find the right way? Where will the bus stop and open its doors so that people can get out?” Nobel committee secretary Goran Hansson said. “There are similar problems in the cell.”

The discoveries have helped doctors diagnose a severe form of epilepsy and immune deficiency diseases in children, Dr Hansson said. In the future, scientists hope the research could lead to medicines against more common types of epilepsy, diabetes and other metabolism deficiencies, he added.

Prof Rothman, 62, works at Yale University, while Prof Schekman, 64, is at the University of California, Berkeley. Prof Sudhof, 57, joined Stanford University in 2008.

The medicine prize kicked off this year’s Nobel announcements. The awards in physics, chemistry, literature, peace and economics will be announced by other prize juries this week and next. Each prize is worth 8 million Swedish kronor ($1.2 million).

* Associated Press