I was sentences away from being done my blog post about the Nobel prize winnings in Medicine this week when my laptop decided to randomly restart. Even if I rewrite the post, it won’t be the same. Not happy right now. Not happy at all. I’ve managed to rewrite a short bit about both set of winners, it isn’t as great as the first time I wrote about it. In any case, it has been a hallmark week for medical research! Congratulations to the winners!
The first set of winners are John B. Gurdon and Dr. Shinya Yamanaka who co-share the Nobel prize for their discovery that mature cells can be reprogrammed to become pluripotent (iPS cells). We have obtained a new view of the development of cells and organisms as a result of their discoveries. This research gives us a closer look at the mechanics of disease and the benefits for medical application will be astounding as more research in this area occurs.
Further more two American scientists, Robert Lefkowitz and Brian Kobilka are also sharing the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for nailing receptors behind the fight or flight system or more broadly the communication system the human body uses to sense the outside world and send messages to cells — for example, speeding the heart when danger approaches. The understanding is aiding the development of new drugs. We already know hormones like adrenaline trigger the fight or flight system triggering a host of responses but adrenaline does not enter the cells so the assumption a receptor or protein was involved in aiding these responses was correct. Little was however known about the nature of this essential receptor and how it interacted was still a mystery. What was working as a gateway to the cell has been discovered. The gene that tells the body how to make the adrenaline receptor, and the whole family of receptors that look alike – a family that is now called G-protein-coupled receptors. Many of today’s drugs act on these receptors and subsequent research will certainly help improve current drugs and develop new ones.
These discoveries in basic science have opened a new frontier of research into clinical application. Aspiring scientists should never be afraid to try something new. Remember, amateurs built the Ark and professionals built the Titanic.