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Wednesday, Oct. 9, 2013

This Week's News

Nobel Prize in Medicine goes to three American researchers

The groundbreaking research of three U.S. scientists who have solved the mystery of how the cell organizes its transport system has been recognized this week with the 2013 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine.

The three Americans—James E. Rothman, PhD, Randy W. Schekman, PhD, and Thomas C. Südhof, MD—were announced Monday as the joint winners of this year’s award. The findings could have a great impact on the understanding and treatment of numerous neurological and immunological disorders and diseases.

The cell transport system looks at how each cell produces and exports molecules, which are moved around the cell in small packages called vesicles. The three Nobel Laureates have discovered the molecular principles that govern how this cargo is delivered to the right place at the right time:

  • Schekman discovered a set of genes required for vesicle traffic.
  • Rothman unraveled protein machinery that allows vesicles to fuse with their targets to permit transfer of cargo.
  • Dr. Südhof determined how signals instruct vesicles to release their cargo with precision.

These discoveries have had a major impact on the understanding of how cargo (insulin, for instance) is delivered with timing and precision within and outside the cell. The system is critical for a variety of physiological processes in which vesicle fusion must be controlled, ranging from signaling in the brain to release of hormones and immune cytokines. Defective vesicle transport can be seen in a variety of neurological and immunological disorders as well as a rapidly growing affliction of modern society: diabetes.

As researchers continue this important work on the cellular level, the AMA also is working to prevent type 2 diabetes and heart disease and improve outcomes for people suffering from them. Learn more about how the AMA’s Improving Health Outcomes initiative is strengthening links between the clinic and community through novel strategies and collaborations to help make the United States a healthy nation.