By Niklas Pollard
STOCKHOLM Oct 7 Two Americans and a German won
the 2013 Nobel medicine prize on Monday for their work on how
hormones and enzymes are transported within and outside cells,
giving insight into diseases such as diabetes and Alzheimer's.
James Rothman, Randy Schekman and Germany's Thomas Suedhof
mapped out one of the body's critical networks that uses tiny
bubbles known as vesicles to ferry chemicals such as insulin
within cells. The system is so critical and sensitive that
errors in the machinery can lead to death.
"Without this wonderfully precise organisation, the cell
would lapse into chaos," the Nobel Assembly at Sweden's
Karolinska Institute said in a statement when awarding the prize
of 8 million crowns ($1.2 million).
"Through their discoveries, Rothman, Schekman and Suedhof
have revealed the exquisitely precise control system for the
transport and delivery of cellular cargo."
For example, their research sheds light on how insulin,
which controls blood sugar levels, is manufactured and released
into the blood at the right place at the right time, the Nobel
committee said in the statement.
Rothman is professor at Yale University, Schekman is a
professor at the University of California at Berkeley, while
Suedhof is a professor at Stanford University.
"HOW CELLS WORK"
"My first reaction was, "Oh, my god!" said Schekman, who was
woken with the good news at in the early hours of his morning.
"That was also my second reaction," he added, according to a
Berkeley University statement.
Medicine is the first of the Nobel prizes awarded each
year. Prizes for achievements in science, literature and peace
were first awarded in 1901 in accordance with the will of
dynamite inventor and businessman Alfred Nobel.
"Today's Nobel Prize is very timely and well deserved,"
Professor Patrik Rorsman of Oxford University said. "It is such
a fundamental process they have studied and explained.
"Their discoveries could perhaps have clinical implications
in psychiatric diseases, but my guess is that they will be more
useful for the understanding of how cells work."
The committee said the work could help in understanding
immuno-deficiency, as well as brain disorders such as autism.
Jan-Inge Henter, professor of clinical child oncology at the
Karolinska Institute, said at a news conference:
"For quite some time, it's been known that this is important
in the signaling between neurons, that is nerve cells. We have
billions of nerve cells and they have to communicate with each
other and they do so with this vesicle transport system.
"Now, we've realized that this is also important in for
instance diabetes, because we know that insulin is released by
these vesicles and we know that the immune system is regulated
also by this vesicle transport mechanism."