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3 Scientists Share Nobel Chemistry Prize for DNA Work

  • Tom Rivers

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Two Americans and one Israeli share this year's Nobel Prize in Chemistry for their work showing how the DNA code is translated into life itself.

Americans Venkatraman Ramakrishnan and Thomas Steitz and Ada Yonath from Israel were all instrumental in showing how proteins are made at the atomic level.

The chairman of the Nobel Chemistry Committee, Gunnar Von Heijne says the importance of their research cannot be overstated.

"The three laureates have accomplished what many scientists thought impossible, namely to determine the three- dimensional structure of the molecular machine that makes all the proteins in a cell, the so-called ribosome," said Von Heijne. "Using x-ray crystallography to obtain snapshots of the ribosome in action, they have been able to explain how the ribosome selects and couples together amino acids to form proteins."

While DNA molecules contain the blueprint for life inside each cell of every organism, it is the ribosome that translates that information into life.

And as professor Von Heijne says, their understanding of the mechanisms at work has opened the door to others seeking new treatments.

"They have also shown how bacterial ribosomes can be stopped dead in their tracks by various antibiotics, thereby providing insights that help researchers design new drugs to be used in our never-ending fight against bacterial infections," he explained.

The three recipients share the $1.4 million prize. The chemistry award is the third in the 2009 Nobel series. Prizes for medicine were handed out Monday and for physics on Tuesday.

Prizes for the sciences and for peace have been handed out annually since 1901.

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