Cellular Scientists Share Nobel Prize
Last month, the 2013 Nobel Prize in Medicine was awarded jointly to professors James E. Rothman, Randy W. Schekman and Thomas C. Südhof for their discoveries of how cells in the human body transmit molecules from one cell to another in little packages called vesicles.
In a large and busy seaport, systems are required to ensure that the correct cargo is shipped to the correct destination at the right time. The living human cell, with its different compartments called organelles, faces a similar challenge.
Cells produce molecules such as hormones, neurotransmitters and enzymes that have to be delivered to other places inside the cell or exported out of the cell at exactly the right moment. Without this wonderfully precise organization, the cell would lapse into chaos.
The specific contributions to medicine made by these gentleman, along with their positions:
James Rothman unraveled proteins that allow vesicles to fuse with their targets, thereby permitting transfer of cargo. Rothman joined the faculty of Yale University in New Haven, Conn., in 2008, where he is currently professor and chairman in the Department of Cell Biology.
Randy Schekman discovered a set of genes that controls vesicle traffic. Schekman joined the faculty of the University of California at Berkeley in 1976, where he is currently professor in the Department of Molecular and Cell Biology. He is also an investigator of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute.
Thomas Südhof revealed how signals instruct vesicles to release their cargo with precision. Disturbances in this complex system contribute to conditions such as diabetes, nerve diseases and immune disorders. Südhof became an investigator of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute in 1991 and was appointed professor of molecular and cellular physiology at Stanford University in 2008.
Congratulations to these researchers for their discoveries, and for their shedding additional light on the intricate and ever-wondrous workings of the body.
Art Kunkin, 85 years young, is a journalist who founded the alternative weekly The Los Angeles Free Press in 1964 and later became president of the Philosophical Research Society. He is on the advisory board of The Institute of Mentalphysics, also known as the Joshua Tree Retreat Center. Kunkin has a new website, stopagingrightnow.com, which provides cutting-edge health info daily. Copyright © 2013 by Art Kunkin.