The 2013 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine has been awarded to James E. Rothman, Thomas C. Südhof and Randy W. Schekman. The trio was recognized for their work on the cell transport system, the genes and proteins involved in sending molecules, or "cargo," to the right place at the right time in the cell.
Rothman, 63, is the chairman of Cell Biology at Yale University, earning his B.A. at Yale University and his Ph.D. at Harvard University. Schekman, 64, is a professor at the University of California, Berkeley and an investigator at Howard Hughes Medical Institute. Südhof, 58, is a German researcher currently working at the Stanford School of Medicine.
The Nobel Assembly at Karolinska Institutet announced the 2013 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine on Monday. According to the committee, "The three Nobel laureates have discovered the molecular principles that govern how this cargo is delivered to the right place at the right time in the cell." Vesicles carry hormones, growth factors, enzymes and other molecules throughout the cell in a process known as "vesicle traffic," reports the Associated Press.
According to the committee, Rothman discovered proteins that are required for the docking and fusing with their targeted membrane. Schekman was recognized for his work on discovering what genes were necessary for vesicle traffic, necessary for directing the flow of traffic within the transport system. Südhof discovered the signaling process for vesicles to release their cargo. In a press release from Berkeley, Schekman said when he heard the news, "my first reaction was, “Oh, my god! That was also my second reaction." Südhof had a similar reaction, asking, "Are you serious?"
The research on the cell transport system could lead to new insights, and possible treatments, for diseases such as diabetes, tetanus and other immune diseases, notes AP. Schekman said some forms of diabetes and a form of hemophilia are caused by an error in the secretion system of cells, and his work with yeast helped lead to the creation of insulin made from yeast. Schekman's current research involves looking at this secretion system and a possible link to Alzheimer's disease.