10 October 2012

The Nobel Prize in Chemistry will be awarded to molecular biologists

Medical "Nobel" in Chemistry

Alexandra Borisova, Nikolay Podorvanyuk, "Gazeta.Ru»The Nobel Prize in Chemistry was awarded to Robert Lefkowitz and Brian Kobilka, professors of medicine from the United States.

The Committee noted their work on the study of G-protein coupled receptors.

"The human body is a finely tuned mechanism whose work is determined by the interaction of billions of cells. Each cell is equipped with the smallest receptors with which it "feels" the environment. By processing their signals, it adapts to changing conditions. Robert Lefkowitz and Brian Kobilka made fundamental discoveries that explained how one of the important classes of these receptors – G-protein coupled receptors – works, the Nobel Committee said in a statement. – For a long time, it remained a mystery to scientists how cells "touch" their environment. It was known that hormones such as adrenaline produce amazing changes: blood pressure increases, the heart begins to beat faster.

Accordingly, scientists assumed that the surface of the cells is equipped with a sensor receiving a signal from hormones. But it was not possible to find out what these receptors consisted of and how they worked.

Lefkowitz in 1968 began using the phenomenon of radioactivity to attack the trail of cellular receptors. He labeled various hormones with a radioactive isotope of iodine and thus monitored their movement. So he managed to find several receptors on the surface of the cells, and among them the adrenalin beta-adrenergic receptor. A group of scientists under his leadership was able to isolate the receptor from the cell wall and get the first idea of how it works.

The first big step was taken in the 1980s. Kobilka, who came to the Lefkowitz group, was able to identify the gene encoding the beta-adrenoreceptor. Having studied the work of the gene, scientists have shown that the mechanism of its work is similar to how a light-sensitive receptor works in the eye. They realized that there is a whole family of receptors of similar structure and mechanism of functioning.

Today, this family is called G-protein coupled receptors. These receptors encode about a thousand genes, and they are responsible for recognizing light, odors, adrenaline, histamine, dopamine and serotonin. Almost half of all drugs work by affecting G-protein coupled receptors. Lefkowitz and Kobilka's research provided answers to key questions about the work of these receptors. Moreover, quite recently, in 2011, Kobilka achieved a new breakthrough result: he and his scientific group "photographed" the beta-adrenergic receptor at the moment of activation by the hormone and sending a signal to the cell. This "painting" is a molecular masterpiece, the crown of many decades of work."

To better illustrate the work of the receptors, the representative of the Nobel Committee asked for a cup of coffee and, after drinking, said: "Thanks to these receptors, serpentines, I can feel the aroma of coffee, look at this beautiful cup. I can understand what is happening in my body and around me. Thousands of signals pass through the cell membranes of my body."

After that, the Nobel Committee managed to get through to one of the laureates, Robert Lefkowitz.

– Congratulations, Professor! It's six o'clock in the morning in America, a professor from our committee has had a cup of coffee. I hope you drank too," the presenter said. – You are live at the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences. What do you feel now?

– I am very excited. I was sleeping, then the phone rang. I didn't hear the bell – when I sleep, I put on earplugs. My wife elbowed me and said, "Someone is calling you." When I picked up the phone, it was a surprise for me, I didn't expect it at all. I haven't told anyone yet. Before the conference, I was able to contact another laureate via Skype, we are good friends, and I wanted to be the first to congratulate him on receiving the award.

– What are your plans for today?

– I think it will be a very difficult day for me. I'm going to work. I was going to get a haircut, but I think I'm going to have to postpone it.

– Have you been to Stockholm before? Are you going to the award ceremony in December?

– Yes, I have been there several times, attended various scientific conferences. Of course, I will come with my wife in December. I have a very large family, I have five children and five grandchildren. I do not know if they will all be able to come, but I will definitely invite those who can.

– The G-protein coupled receptors, for which you received the Nobel Prize for your research, are necessary for the creation of a large number of medical preparations. Can you tell me why this is so?

– There are many factors for this. The first is that there are a large number of such receptors in our body, they are the "gate" to the cell. As a result, such receptors are very important because they are involved in the regulation of practically all physiological processes of the body. When a person is sick, we, doctors, need to control the activity of various substances and hormones, like dopamine, for example. And for this, it is important for us to understand the work of receptors.

– Did you expect to be awarded the prize?

– I was thinking about it in the long term. In the meantime, I thought I could sleep in peace.

The chemistry Prize was awarded to Louis Bruce from Columbia University (New York) for the discovery of quantum dots - colloidal semiconductor nanocrystals that can be used as phosphors and elements of a quantum computer. Bruce, by the way, in 2008, together with the Japanese Sumio Ijima, received the prestigious Kavli Prize for this discovery, which is considered a harbinger of the Nobel Prize. Another contender is Akira Fujishima, president of the Tokyo University of Science. He discovered the photocatalytic properties of titanium dioxide, the "Honda–Fujishima effect". This work, which he did while working on his PhD thesis under the supervision of Professor Kenichi Honda in 1967, has already passed the test of time as extremely practically important: The self-cleaning ability of titanium dioxide has revolutionized ceramics, glass making (self-cleaning glasses) and other industries. Air purification with titanium dioxide in air conditioners is based on the same principle.

Masatake Haruta from Tokyo Metropolitan University and Graham Hutchings from Cardiff University could receive the Nobel Prize for their work on the catalytic properties of gold nanoparticles

Portal "Eternal youth" http://vechnayamolodost.ru10.10.2012

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