Nobel Prize In Medicine And Physiology Shared By Three Researchers

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Noble Prize in medicine and physiology has been jointly awarded to three researchers for their work in discovering how cells adapt to different oxygen levels

Written By Devarshi mankad | Mumbai | Updated On:
Nobel Prize

The 2019 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine has been awarded jointly to William G. Kaelin Jr, Sir Peter J. Ratcliffe and Gregg L. Semenza “for their discoveries of how cells sense and adapt to oxygen availability.” The releasing of the winner took place at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm. 

Gregg Semenza is based at the John Hopkins University in Baltimore in the USA, Sir Peter Ratcliffe and is based at Oxford University in England and at the Francis Crick Institute in London and William Kaelin is based at the Dana Farber Cancer Institute in Boston. 

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The research

The Nobel laureates identified molecular machinery that regulates the activity of genes in response to varying levels of oxygen. The importance of oxygen has been known. However, how cells adapt to changes in oxygen levels has been unknown. The seminal discoveries by this year’s Nobel Laureates revealed the mechanism for one of life’s most essential adaptive processes. They established the basis for our understanding of how oxygen levels affect cellular metabolism and physiological function. Their discoveries have also paved the way for promising new strategies to fight anemia, cancer and many other diseases. 

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When oxygen levels are low (hypoxia), HIF-1α is protected from degradation and accumulates in the nucleus, where it associates with ARNT and binds to specific DNA sequences (HRE) in hypoxia-regulated genes. At normal oxygen levels, HIF-1α is rapidly degraded by the proteasome. Oxygen regulates the degradation process by the addition of hydroxyl groups (OH) to HIF-1α. The VHL protein can then recognize and form a complex with HIF-1α leading to its degradation in an oxygen-dependent manner. The adaptation to different oxygen levels also helps to learn how and why the body adapts to different oxygen levels. 

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Previously awarded in America

In 2016, Kaelin, Sir Ratcliffe, and Semenza were awarded the Albert Lasker Basic Medical Research Award, which is awarded to those who have made a contribution to medicine. 

The Nobel Prize awarded to medicine and physiology is the first on the list of Noble Prize awarded each year. The Nobel Prize for Physics, Chemistry, Literature, Peace and Economic Sciences will be awarded on October 8, 9, 10, 11 and 14 respectively.

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