Nobel prize in medicine in 2019 goes to cell researchers

The Nobel prize for physiology or medicine for oxygen to be honored this year, three scientists, which deal with the basis of our life:. William Kaelin, Gregg Semenza and Peter Ratcliffe have “created the Basis for our understanding of how oxygen affects our cellular metabolism and physiological functions”, – stated in the explanatory statement of the Nobel Committee. “Their discoveries have paved the way for promising new strategies in the fight against anemia, cancer and many other diseases.”

Especially in the Work of the two Americans, Kaelin and Semenza, and of the British Ratcliffe to the exploration of the mechanisms that cells use to adjust, if a different amount of oxygen is present. The scientists have found out how cells sense different concentrations of oxygen as well as respond to it. They discovered “the molecular machinery that regulates in response to varying quantities of Oxygen, the activity of genes”, – stated in the press release.

Survive despite lack of oxygen

Lack of oxygen occurs physiologically repeatedly in a large amount, for example, or during physical exertion. Also in diseases such as infections or tumors, lack of oxygen to the cells. Only if the organism of humans as well as animals react to it, he can survive. This is often done through the activity of the genes that, in turn, control many processes in the body: cellular metabolism, for example, the breathing, renewal of cells and blood vessels and the immune system.

How exactly these operations are, however, controlled in the body, it was long unclear. Although known for decades, that something in the kidney formed by the hormone erythropoietin, short Epo, is always recognized more, if too little oxygen is present in the blood. However, as the body has this defect, it was unclear.

Gregg Semenza and Sir Peter Ratcliffe worked in various working groups on this topic. They discovered certain sections in the genome that regulate the activity of the Epo gene and in addition, various proteins that control these sections. The cancer researcher William Kaelin found out that also in the case of certain inheritable tumor of the oxygen diseases concentration plays an important role in whether cancer cells proliferate or not.

The Work of the three scientists complemented each other at the cellular and molecular level, and allow today a precise understanding of how organisms respond to fluctuating oxygen concentrations. However, they allow not only a greater Knowledge about physiological processes: Also, pharmaceutical companies are already testing drugs that interfere with the control loop of the investigated oxygen sensors, and thereby the cell metabolism and the growth could affect. On the market none of the active ingredients however.

The Nobel prize for medicine is worth nine million Swedish crowns, equivalent to around € 830,000. In the past year, researcher James Allison and Tasuku Honjo had received the Nobel prize for medicine and physiology. They had been excellent for the exploration of therapies that use the immune system to cancer cells attacked.

For scientists, the Nobel prize is considered the highest award. The childless chemist Alfred Nobel had the bulk of his fortune to his Foundation bequeathed, the gives since 1901 – five years after Nobel’s death each year the Nobel prize in five categories: medicine and physiology, physics, chemistry, literature and peace.