And the Winners Are
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The Nobel Prize Look at any well-run company and you see how its infrastructure and organization is essential to its success. Well, that’s how a healthy cell functions. This means producing molecules, delivering them to areas inside the cell, to an adjacent cell, or released for distribution to cells across the body. A cell’s transport system has been an intense area of biomedical research for years.

This year, the Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine was awarded to three scientists who identified key principles in this transport system.  Dr. Randy Sheckman at the University of California-Berkeley discovered the genes and proteins that regulate the traffic of vesicles. Vesicles are hollow spheres that carry molecules needed for functions within a cell and by other cells.

Dr. James Rothman of Yale University found each vesicle has specific proteins on its surface that’s like a zip code telling it where to go. Once there, the proteins fit with complementary proteins like two sides of a zipper that when zipped together releases the vesicle’s contents. It turns out that these surface proteins are coded by the same genes that Dr. Sheckman discovered.

Finally, Dr. Thomas Sudhof from Stanford University learned by studying nerve cells that vesicles carrying neurotransmitters are perfectly timed to release them.
He found that calcium ions act as triggers causing vesicles to fuse with the cell’s outer membrane and release their neurotransmitters to other cells.

These three scientists defined a fundamental process used in all cells. It’s helped us understand why problems with vesicle transport can lead to neurological and immune system disease. As we learn more in the years ahead, scientists may develop effective therapies for these disorders. 

For more information…

The Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine 2013
"The 2013 Nobel Prize honours three scientists who have solved the mystery of how the cell organizes its transport system."

For 3 Nobel Winners, a Molecular Mystery Solved
"Three Americans won the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine on Monday for discovering the machinery that regulates how cells transport major molecules in a cargo system that delivers them to the right place at the right time."

Transportation Within and Between Cells
Simple and succinct explanation