Two Americans win Nobel Prize in chemistry for study of protein receptors
Stockholm, Sweden (4E) – Americans Robert Lefkowitz and Brian Kobilka received the 2012 Nobel Prize in chemistry on Wednesday for the study of protein receptors that allow cells to sense and respond to outside signals, leading the way to developing better drugs.
The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, which awarded the prize, acknowledged the two scientists groundbreaking discoveries that reveal the inner workings of an important family of G-protein-coupled receptors.
Lefkowitz and Kobilka’s four decade research on “G-protein-coupled receptors”, which started after Lefkowitz used a radioactivity in 1968 to trace cells’ receptors, has completely boosted the comprehension of how cells sense chemicals in the bloodstream and external stimuli such as light.
Their work has provided drug makers the chance to develop medication with fewer side effects.
Kobilka, who joined the research team in 1980, managed to isolate the gene that generates the receptor.
It was reported that after researchers analyzed the gene, they discovered that the receptor was similar to one in the eye that captures light and realized that there is a whole family of receptors that look alike and function in the same manner.
The academy said that in 2011, Kobilka achieved another break-through after he and his research team captured an image of the receptor at the exact moment that it is activated by a hormone that sent a signal into the cell. This image is a molecular masterpiece – the result of decades of research.
It was explained by the academy that humans experience G-protein-coupled receptors usually through smell, see and taste but within the body, they sense signaling substances, such as adrenalin, serotonin, histamine and dopamine.
Most of the medications react through these receptors, among them beta blockers, antihistamines and various kinds of psychiatric medications.
The usual Nobel Prizes in chemistry were given to organic or carbon-based chemistry, specifically in the area of life sciences such as genetics.
The two Nobel Prize winners will receive 8 million Swedish kronor (about $1.2 million).