News / Europe

Cellular Delivery System Research Wins Nobel Prize

James Rothman and Randy Schekman, of the US, and German-born researcher Thomas Suedhof are projected on a screen, in Stockholm, Sweden after they were announced as the winners of the 2013 Nobel Prize in medicine, Oct. 7, 2013.
James Rothman and Randy Schekman, of the US, and German-born researcher Thomas Suedhof are projected on a screen, in Stockholm, Sweden after they were announced as the winners of the 2013 Nobel Prize in medicine, Oct. 7, 2013.
Three researchers studying how cells transport chemicals within and between cells have won this year’s Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine.

2013 Nobel Prize in Physiology, Medicine

Awarded to three scientists for solving the mystery of how the cell organizes its transport system

  • James Rothman: Professor and Chairman in the Department of Cell Biology at Yale University
  • Randy Schekman: Professor in the Department of Molecular and Cell Biology at the University of California at Berkeley
  • Thomas Sudhof: Professor of Molecular and Cellular Physiology at Stanford University
To explain what the researchers discovered, Harvard University cell biologist Tom Kirchhausen says it helps to think of each cell in the body as a tiny city.

“You have people that are moving from one place to the other to do whatever function they do,” he said. “You move from place to place in carriers or containers,” like buses, trucks or trains, he says.

In this analogy, the people are the proteins, hormones and other chemicals that do the work and carry messages in our bodies.

Insulin, produced in the pancreas but used throughout the body, is one example. Or neurotransmitters that carry brain signals from one neuron to another.

The transport system - the cell’s tiny buses, trucks or trains - has to get them from one part of the cell to another, or to the outside of the cell. If the system breaks down, the results are diseases like diabetes or neurodegenerative disorders.

Yeast to people

The process is so fundamental to life that evolution has not changed it much from yeast to people.

Randy Schekman at the University of California at Berkeley discovered in yeast the genetic blueprints for the proteins that make up the cellular delivery system.

Later, says neuroscientist Erik Jorgensen at the University of Utah, researchers found out “that the proteins involved in this process that allow us to think, that allow nerve cells to communicate with one another, are precisely the same ones that were found in yeast.”

But Schekman’s work was just a piece of the puzzle. James Rothman at Yale University discovered how each little cellular bus delivers its passengers to the right station.

“From Schekman’s work we had a list of the players,” Jorgensen said. “What Rothman showed us was who was interacting with whom.”

And the third prize winner, Thomas Südhof, discovered how in nerve cells those little buses release their passengers quickly and precisely in response to a signal.

Research at risk

At a press conference, Rothman noted that his good mood was due to his neurons secreting endorphins, one class of neurotransmitters delivered through the mechanism he and his colleagues had discovered.

Rothman said he was lucky to get his start at a time when a young scientist could take risks to pursue an idea.

“I’d like to think that that kind of support existed today, but I think there’s less of it," he said. "And it’s actually becoming a pressing national issue, if not an international issue.”

He said U.S. funding for scientific research has declined in recent years, threatening American leadership in science and technology.

You May Like

On Everest, Helicopters Rescue Stranded Climbers

Choppers transport some of more than 100 mountaineers trapped after deadly quake, avalanches More

Video Ten Years After Riots, France Searches for Answers to Neglected Suburbs

In 2005, a Paris suburb exploded into violence after two teenagers were electrocuted as they hid from police; since then, somethings have changed, others not More

US, Japan Announce Historic Revision of Defense Cooperation Guidelines

Nations say new guidelines will be 'cornerstone for peace and security' in Asia-Pacific region while also serving as 'platform for a more stable international security environment' More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
‘Angel of the Migrants’ Helps Desperate Syrians Arriving in Europei
X
Henry Ridgwell
April 26, 2015 10:36 PM
Waves of migrants are continuing to arrive on the shores of southern Italy from North Africa. After their dangerous journey across the Mediterranean, they face an unknown future in Europe. In the Sicilian city of Catania there is an activist dedicated to helping the refugees on their journey.
Video

Video ‘Angel of the Migrants’ Helps Desperate Syrians Arriving in Europe

Waves of migrants are continuing to arrive on the shores of southern Italy from North Africa. After their dangerous journey across the Mediterranean, they face an unknown future in Europe. In the Sicilian city of Catania there is an activist dedicated to helping the refugees on their journey.
Video

Video Ten Years After Riots, France Searches for Answers to Neglected Suburbs

January’s terrorist attacks and fears of more to come are casting a spotlight on France’s neglected suburbs. Home to many immigrants, and sometimes hubs of crime, they were rocked by rioting a decade ago. Lisa Bryant visited the Paris suburb of Clichy-sous-Bois, where the 2005 violence first broke out, and has this report about what has changed and what has not.
Video

Video Gay Marriage Goes Before US Supreme Court

This week, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments on whether gay people have a constitutional right to marriage. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, the case could lead to the nationwide legalization of same-sex marriage, or a continuation of the status quo in which individual states decide whether to recognize gay unions.
Video

Video Study: Insecticide Damaging Wild Bee Populations

A popular but controversial type of insecticide is damaging important wild bee populations, according to a new study. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Data Servers Could Heat Private Homes

As every computer owner knows, when their machines run a complex program they get pretty hot. In fact, cooling the processors can be expensive, especially when you're dealing with huge banks of computer servers. But what if that energy could heat private homes? VOA’s George Putic reports that a Dutch energy firm aims to do just that.
Video

Video Cinema That Crosses Borders Showcased at Tribeca Film Festival

Among the nearly 100 feature length films being shown at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival in New York City are more than 20 documentaries and features with international appeal, from a film about a Congolese businessman in China, to documentaries shot in Pakistan and diaspora communities in the U.S., to a poetic look at disaffected South African youth. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video UN Confronts Threat of Young Radicals

The radicalization and recruitment of young people into Islamist extremist groups has become a growing challenge for governments worldwide. On Thursday, the U.N. Security Council heard from experts on the issue, which has become a potent threat to international peace and security. VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports.
Video

Video Growing Numbers of Turks Discover Armenian Ancestry

In a climate of improved tolerance, growing numbers of people in Turkey are discovering their grandmothers were Armenian. Hundreds of thousands of Armenians escaped the mass deportations and slaughter of the early 1900's by forced conversion to Islam. Or, Armenian children were taken in by Turkish families and assimilated. Now their stories are increasingly being heard. Dorian Jones reports from Istanbul that the revelations are viewed as an important step.
Video

Video Migrants Trek Through Western Balkans to Reach EU

Migrants from Africa and other places are finding different routes into the European Union in search of a better life. The Associated Press followed one clandestine group to document their trek through the western Balkans to Hungary. Zlatica Hoke reports that the migrants started using that route about four years ago. Since then, it has become the second-most popular path into Western Europe, after the option of sailing from North Africa to Italy.
Video

Video US Businesses See Cuba as New Frontier

The Obama administration's opening toward Cuba is giving U.S. companies hope they'll be able to do business in Cuba despite the continuation of the U.S. economic embargo against the communist nation. Some American companies have been able to export some products to Cuba, but the recent lifting of Cuba's terrorism designation could relax other restrictions. As VOA's Daniela Schrier reports, corporate heavy hitters are lining up to head across the Florida Straits - though experts urge caution.
Video

Video Kenya Launches Police Recruitment Drive After Terror Attacks

Kenya launched a major police recruitment drive this week as part of a large-scale effort to boost security following a recent spate of terror attacks. VOA’s Gabe Joselow reports that allegations of corruption in the process are raising old concerns about the integrity of Kenya’s security forces.
Video

Video Japan, China in Race for Asia High-Speed Rail Projects

A lucrative competition is underway in Asia for billions of dollars in high-speed rail projects. Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Malaysia Thailand and Vietnam are among the countries planning to move onto the fast track. They are negotiating with Japan and the upstart Chinese who are locked in a duel to revolutionize transportation across Asia. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Bangkok has details.
Video

Video Scientists: Mosquitoes Attracted By Our Genes

Some people always seem to get bitten by mosquitoes more than others. Now, scientists have proved that is really the case - and they say it’s all because of genes. It’s hoped the research might lead to new preventative treatments for diseases like malaria, as Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Bible Museum Coming to Washington DC

Washington is the center of American political power and also home to some of the nation’s most visited museums. A new one that will showcase the Bible has skeptics questioning the motives of its conservative Christian funders. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Afghan First Lady Pledges No Roll Back on Women's Rights

Afghan First Lady Rula Ghani, named one of Time's 100 Most Influential, says women should take part in talks with Taliban. VOA's Rokhsar Azamee has more from Kabul.

VOA Blogs