Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Nobel Prize in Chemistry Goes To 2 Americans

G-Protein-Coupled Receptors

The Nobel Prize in Chemistry has gone to two Americans Robert Lefkowitz of Howard Hughes Medical Institute in Maryland and Brian Kobilka of Stanford University in California for discovering the inner workings of G-protein-coupled receptors, which are gateways to cells that react to chemical messages. An article in Reuters says:
"Around half of all medications act through these receptors, among them beta blockers, antihistamines and various kinds of psychiatric medications," the committee said.Working out better ways to target the receptors, known as GPCRs, is an area of keen focus for pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies.
Lefkowitz told a news conference by telephone that he was asleep when the phone call came from Sweden. "I did not hear it—I must share with you that I wear earplugs to sleep. So my wife gave me an elbow. So there it was, a total shock and surprise," he said.
The release from the Nobel Committee explains in greater detail how and why their work on G-protein-coupled receptors, or GPCRs are important:
The team achieved its next big step during the 1980s. The newly recruited Kobilka accepted the challenge to isolate the gene that codes for the β-adrenergic receptor from the gigantic human genome. His creative approach allowed him to attain his goal. When the researchers analyzed the gene, they discovered that the receptor was similar to one in the eye that captures light. They realized that there is a whole family of receptors that look alike and function in the same manner.
Today this family is referred to as G-protein–coupled receptors. About a thousand genes code for such receptors, for example, for light, flavour, odour, adrenalin, histamine, dopamine and serotonin. About half of all medications achieve their effect through G-protein–coupled receptors. 
The work will lead to the manufacture of better drugs with less side effects. The laureates will receive their prizes at formal ceremonies in Stockholm and Oslo on December 10, the anniversary of prize founder Alfred Nobel's death in 1896.

You can read the Nobel citation here and the rest of the article at [Reuters].