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

Mali's Female Basketball Players Rebound After Islamist Occupation

Islamist extremists ruled northern Mali for most of 2012, imposing strict Sharia law, and now some 18 months later, the region is slowly getting back on its feet More

Video Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spat

Many Chinese-made products go unsold, for now, with numerous Vietnamese consumers still angry over recent dispute More

Koreas Mark 61st Anniversary of War Armistice

Muted observances on both sides of heavily-armed Demilitarized Zone that separates two decades-long enemies More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Students in Business for Themselvesi
X
Mike O'Sullivan
July 26, 2014 11:04 AM
They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Students in Business for Themselves

They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Astronauts Train in Underwater Lab

In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Not Even Monks Spared From Thailand’s Junta-Backed Morality Push

With Thailand’s military government firmly in control after May’s bloodless coup, authorities are carrying out plans they say are aimed at restoring discipline, morality and patriotism to all Thais. The measures include a crackdown on illegal gambling, education reforms to promote students’ moral development, and a new 24-hour phone hotline for citizens to report misbehaving monks. Steve Sandford reports from Bangkok.
Video

Video Virtual Program Teaches Farming Skills

In a fast-changing world beset by unpredictable climate conditions, farmers cannot afford to ignore new technology. Researchers in Australia are developing an online virtual world program to share information about climate change and more sustainable farming techniques for sugar cane growers. As VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports, the idea is to create a wider support network for farmers.
Video

Video Airline Expert: Missile will Show Signature on Debris

The debris field from Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 is spread over a 21-kilometer radius in eastern Ukraine. It is expected to take investigators months to sort through the airplane pieces to learn about the missile that brought down the jetliner and who fired it. VOAs Carolyn Presutti explains how this work will be done.
Video

Video Treatment for Childhood Epilepsy Heats up Medical Marijuana Debate

In the United States, marijuana is classed as an illegal drug by the federal government. But nearly half the states have legalized it, to some degree. Proponents say some strains of marijuana might have exceptional health benefits, for treating pain or inflammation in chronic conditions such as cancer, multiple sclerosis and epilepsy. Shelley Schlender reports on a strain of medical marijuana developed in Colorado that is reputed to reduce seizures in childhood epilepsy
Video

Video Airbus Adds Metal 3D Printed Parts to New Jets

By the end of this year, European aircraft manufacturing consortium Airbus plans to deliver the first of its new, extra-wide-body passenger jets, the A350-XWB. Among other technological innovations, the new plane will also incorporate metal parts made in a 3-D printer. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video AIDS Conference Welcomes Exciting Developments in HIV Treatment, Prevention

Significant strides have been made in recent years toward the treatment and prevention of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. This year, at the International AIDS Conference, the AIDS community welcomed progress on a new pill that may prevent transmission of the deadly virus. VOA’s Anita Powell reports from Melbourne, Australia.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.

AppleAndroid