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8 October 2013

Cells team win Nobel Medicine Prize

Americans James Rothman and Randy Schekman and German-born researcher Thomas Suedhof have won the 2013 Nobel Prize in medicine for discoveries on how key substances are transported within cells, a process involved in such important activities as brain cell communication and the release of insulin.

Their research, which in the future could lead to medicines for epilepsy, diabetes and other metabolism deficiencies, sheds new light on how tiny bubbles called vesicles act as cargo carriers inside cells.

This traffic control system ensures that the cargo is delivered to the right place at the right time and keeps activities inside cells from descending into chaos. Defects can be harmful, leading to neurological diseases, diabetes and disorders affecting the immune system.

'Imagine hundreds of thousands of people who are travelling around hundreds of miles of streets; how are they going to find the right way?
Where will the bus stop and open its doors so that people can get out?'
Nobel committee secretary Goran Hansson said. 'There are similar problems in the cell.'

Past discoveries

The winners' discoveries in the 1970s, '80s and '90s have helped doctors diagnose a severe form of epilepsy and immune deficiency diseases in children, Mr Hansson said.

Schekman called the prize a wonderful acknowledgement of the work he and his students had done and said he knew it would change his life.