Tag Archives: cell biology

THE 2016 NOBEL PRIZES IN SCIENCE ARE ANNOUNCED! 

 

Adjusted Photographic Portrait of ALFRED NOBEL in the late 1800's, by Gösta Florman. Common Domain Image obtained from Wikimedia Commons at the Wikipedia website: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Alfred Nobel_adjusted.jpg .
Adjusted Photographic Portrait of ALFRED NOBEL in the late 1800’s, by Gösta Florman. Common Domain Image obtained from Wikimedia Commons at the Wikipedia website: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Alfred Nobel_adjusted.jpg .

 

Seven scientists from the many thousands worldwide have just been announced to share the 2016 Nobel Prizes in Physiology or Medicine, Chemistry, and, Physics.  Alfred Nobel (1833-1896) had a very eventful life in addition to discovering dynamite; fascinating details about his adventures are well worthwhile for you to read (see:  “Alfred Nobel – St. Petersburg, 1842-1863” and, Alfred Nobel – His Life and Work” )!  Nobel conducted scientific research in chemistry, and also was active as an engineer, industrialist, and inventor.  His will bequeathed his fortune to set up ongoing global prizes for scientific work providing the greatest benefit to all humans.  Details about all the Nobel Prizes in science and in non-science are described at: http://www.nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes .

All scientists would dearly love to win a Nobel Prize, but only a very few ever attain this most prestigious honor in science!  The new awards will be bestowed at ceremonies and events during the special Nobel Week festivities at Stockholm, Sweden (December 5-10,  2016).  The latest Nobel Laureates should be much appreciated by the general public, and congratulated by other scientists for the excellence in their experimental research!  A brief summary of the 2016 Laureates and their honored research achievements follows.

Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine [1,2]! 

The 2016 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine is awarded to Yoshinori Ohsumi, Ph.D. (Tokyo Institute of Technology, Japan), for his research determining the detailed molecular mechanisms for the functioning of autophagy (autophagocytosis) in cellular health and disease.  Autophagy provides the controlled destruction of old or damaged subcellular organelles (e.g., mitochondria) or other objects inside eukaryotic cells; after cytoplasmic membranes rearrange to surround the targets, those bodies merge with lysosomes (small packages of hydrolytic enzymes) so the targets are completely broken down without exposing the rest of the cell to that destruction.  Most eukaryotic cells use autophagy as the primary means to keep everything renewed, fresh, and functionally active.  Autophagy complements heterophagy (phagocytosis), where cells internalize external targets (e.g., bacteria) and subsequently destroy them by lysosomal hydrolysis.

Ohsumi’s breakthrough research using molecular genetics discovered how autophagy is activated and regulated, how mutations in proteins controlling autophagocytosis can cause disease states in humans, and how the functioning of autophagy has a wide importance for cell biology and cell pathology.  His discoveries with basic research have solved longstanding questions in cell biology and have led to new investigations with applied research by numerous other scientists.

Nobel Prize in Physics [3,4]!

The 2016 Nobel Prize in Physics is awarded to 3 scientists for theoretical investigations about unusual states of matter: David J. Thouless, Ph.D. (University of Washington, Seattle, WA, U.S.), F. Duncan M. Haldane, Ph.D. (Princeton Univ ersity, Princeton, NJ, U.S., and J. Michael Kosterlitz, Ph.D. (Brown University, Providence, RI, U.S.).  They fundamentally advanced condensed matter physics by studying the topological organization of atoms kept in highly unusual states (i.e., by extreme heating or cooling).  Under such conditions, matter can have different states of organization than the usual gases, liquids, and solids.  Using mathematical analyses, they were able to explain their findings and make detailed theoretical proposals that were later validated by further experimental studies.

This new understanding about matter is anticipated to provide a good basis for future research and engineering development of new superconductors and quantum computers.  The 2016 Nobel Prize in Physics nicely exemplifies the importance of theoretical research studies for stimulating advances in experimental investigations (see “Towards Understanding Theoretical Research in Science” ).

Nobel Prize in Chemistry [5,6]! 

The 2016 Nobel Prize in Chemistry is awarded to 3 pioneering chemists who designed and produced controllable machines made from molecules: Jean-Pierre Sauvage, Ph.D. (University of Strasbourg, France), J. Fraser Stoddart, Ph.D. (Northwestern University, Evanston, IL., U.S.), and Bernard L. Feringa, Ph.D. (University of Groningen, The Netherlands).  Using experimental formations by different types of newly synthesized chemical molecules, they showed that their designed molecular interactions could repeatedly produce lifting, moving, or rotation in response to provision of energy; these new constructs can form molecular machines, motors, and even a “nanocar”.

Miniaturization to the level of molecules gives chemistry an innovative new dimension.  Many researchers and engineers now are working to develop new applications of the technology established during decades of investigations by the 2016 Nobel Laureates in chemistry.  Anticipated developments include new materials, sensors, systems for energy storage, and even computers.

Brief discussion and comments about the 2016 Nobel Prize winners! 

The Nobel Prizes in science continue to bring forth excellent researchers and outstanding experimental studies to the attention of the public worldwide.  Several of the latest Nobel Prizes follow from earlier Nobel Prizes awarded for outstanding research in related subject areas.  Most discoveries by Nobel Laureates began with studies in basic research, which opened the door for later applied research, engineering developments, and industrial productions.  The individual Nobel Laureates in 2016 have some features that commonly characterize winners of all the big honors in science (see: “What Does It Take to Win the Big Prizes in Science? ).

The 2016 award to Prof. Ohsumi is notable because most Nobel Prizes in Medicine or Physiology have been awarded to multiple scientists, rather than to only one person.  He deserves lots of credit for his dedication to long investigations and innovative research leadership!

A frequent criticism of the Nobel Prizes in science is that they do not usually give credit to the research workers associated with the Laureates.  The Breakthrough Prizes, which compete with the Nobel Prizes for being very important honors in scientific research, awarded their 2016 Special Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics to 3 scientists, plus to 1012 other individual workers who travailed on a very large and long research effort in big science [7]!

Check out further information about the 2016 Nobel Prizes in Science! 

All readers, whether scientists or non-scientists,  are encouraged to explore more information about the winning researchers!  Many good written and video presentations soon will be found on the internet!

 

[1]  Nobel Prize, 2016.  Press release, summary for 2016 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine (see: http://www.nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/medicine/laureates/2016/press.html ).

[2]  Nobel Assembly, 2016.  Scientific background: Discoveries of mechanisms for autophagy (see:  https://www.nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/medicine/laureates/2016/advanced-medicineprize2016.pdf

[3] Nobel Prize, 2016.  Press release, The Nobel Prize in Physics 2016 (see: http://www.nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/physics/laureates/2016/press.html ).

[4]  Nobel Assembly 2016. Popular science background: Strange phenomena in matter’s flatlands (see:  http://www.nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/physics/laureates/2016/popular-physicsprize2016.pdf ).

[5]  Nobel Prize, 2016.  Press release, The Nobel Prize in Chemistry 2016 (see: http://www.nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/chemistry/laureates/2016/press.html ).

[6]  Nobel Assembly, 2016.  Popular science background: How molecules became machines (see:  http://www.nobelprize.org/nPobel_prizes/chemistry/laureates/2016/popular-chemistryprize2016.pdf ).

[7]  Breakthrough Prize, 2016.  Special Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics awarded for detection of gravitational waves 100 years after Albert Einstein predicted their existence (see:  https://breakthroughprize.org/News/32 ).

 

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SCIENTISTS TELL US ABOUT THEIR LIFE AND WORK, PART 7

 

Quotation from Prof. David D. Sabatini (from 2005 Annual Review of Cell and Developmental Biology, volume 21, pages 1-33)
Quotation from Prof. David D. Sabatini (from 2005 Annual Review of Cell and Developmental Biology, volume 21, pages 1-33)

 

In this series, I am recommending to you a few life stories about real scientists.  I prefer to let these scientists tell their own stories where possible.  Autobiographical accounts are interesting and entertaining for both non-scientists and other scientists.  My selections here mostly involve scientists I either know personally or at least know about.  If further materials like this are needed, they can be obtained readily on the internet or with input from librarians at public or university libraries, science teachers, and other scientists.                                     

In the preceding segment of this series, the story of a very determined clinical research scientist working in Transplant Surgery and Immunology was recommended (see  http://dr-monsrs.net/2014/09/17/scientists-tell-us-about-their-life-and-work-part-6/ ).  Part 7 presents the activities of a very celebrated cell biologist whose research succeeded in untangling and explaining the extensive subcellular and molecular interactions occuring during the synthesis, trafficking, sorting, and secretion of proteins by our cells. 

 Part 7 Recommendations:  PROTEIN DYNAMICS IN CELL BIOLOGY

David D. Sabatini has led modern research efforts to understand the very complex interactions taking place with the dynamics of proteins during their biosynthesis, co- and post-translational processing, sorting, and, secretion.  After receiving his M.D. degree in Argentina he came to the USA and earned a Ph.D. in 1966 at The Rockefeller University (New York).  His training and early research studies flourished at the very special research center established at Rockefeller by several founding fathers of cell biology (Profs. George Palade [1], Philip Siekevitz [2], and Keith R. Porter (see Part 2 in this series at:   http://dr-monsrs.net/2014/08/07/scientists-tell-us-about-their-life-and-work-part-2/ )).   Much of Sabatini’s reseach efforts have centered on ribosomes, the ribonucleoprotein assemblies that synthesize new proteins inside cells; his lab investigations led to breakthrough findings about the molecular mechanisms directing newly-synthesized proteins to their different intracellular or extracellular target destinations. 

Prof. Sabatini is especially renowned for co-discovering the signal hypothesis in collaboration with Prof. Günter Blobel (Rockefeller University).  This concept nicely explains the dramatic initial passage of all secreted proteins across the membrane (translocation) of endoplasmic reticulum via the presence of a short initial segment of aminoacids that is absent from non-secreted proteins retained for intracellular usage; this segment is termed ‘the signal for secretion’.  Subsequent research studies in other labs added to this hypothesis by discovering additional signals that directed different  newly synthsized proteins to other destinations inside cells;  the generalized signal hypothesis now explains much of the intracellular trafficking of proteins. 

By his nature, Prof. Sabatini always is intensely knowledgeable and enthusiastic about research questions and controversies in cell biology.  His numerous research publications always feature analysis of very detailed experimental results where data and interpretations are elegantly used to form groundbreaking conclusions.  Sabatini led the Department of Cell Biology at the New York University School of Medicine since 1972, and developed that into a leading academic center for modern teaching, scholarship, and research in cell and molecular biology.  He has served as the elected President of the Americal Society for Cell Biology (1978-79), and was awarded the E. B. Wilson Medal jointly with Prof. Blobel by that science society (1986).  In 2003, he received  France’s highest honor in science, the Grande Medaille d’Or (Grand Gold Medal).  Prof. Sabatini has merited membership in the USA National Academy of Sciences (1985), the American Philosophical Society, and the National Institute of Medicine (2000).   His celebrated research career exemplifies the important contributions that scientists from many other countries have made to USA science.   Prof. Sabatini recently retired, but his family name will continue to appear on many new research publications since several of his children have become very productive doctoral researchers in bioscience. 

[1]  Farquhar, M.G., 2012.  A man for all seasons: Reflections on the life and legacy of George Palade.  Annual Review of Cell and Developmental Biology28:1-28.  Available on the internet at:  http://www.annualreviews.org/doi/pdf/10.1146/annurev-cellbio-101011-155813

[2]  Sabatini, D. D., 2010.  Philip Siekevitz: Bridging biochemistry and cell biology.  The Journal of Cell Biology, 189:3-5.  Available on the internet at:  http://jcb.rupress.org/content/189/1/3.full.pdf . 

All 3 of my recommendations (below) provide exciting glimpses into real scientists in action. The first recommendation (1) is a short video presentation by Prof. Sabatini at the conclusion of the special Sabatini Symposium held in 2011 to honor him upon the occasion of retirement.  My second recommendation (2) is a superb autobiography giving many interesting stories about his life and career as a research scientist.  Non-scientist visitors are urged to read (only) pages 5-11; these present a fascinating account of his exciting adventures as a young scientist researching first with Barrnett at Yale University, and then with Palade and Siekevitz at The Rockefeller.  Doctoral scientists should read all of this very personal account.  The third selection (3) is a brief obituary he wrote about his teacher and mentor, Prof. Siekevitz; the stories told here illustrate the importance of scientists as people, and show that some of the controversial items discussed on Dr.M’s website also are of concern to other scientists.    

(1)    Sabatini, D. D., 2011.  Speech at awards ceremony and closing.  Sabatini Symposium, Dec. 2, 2011, New York University School of Medicine.  Available on the internet at:  http://sabatini.med.nyu.edu/videos/awards-ceremony-and-closing . 

(2)     Sabatini, D.D., 2005.  In awe of subcellular complexity: 50 years of trespassing boundaries within the cell.  Annual Review of Cell and Developmental Biology21:1-33.  Available on the internet at: 
http://www.annualreviews.org/doi/pdf/10.1146/annurev.cellbio.21.020904.151711

 (3)     Sabatini, D. D., 2010.  Philip Siekevitz: Bridging biochemistry and cell biology.  The Journal of Cell Biology189:3-5.  Available on the internet at:  http://jcb.rupress.org/content/189/1/3.full.pdf

 

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SCIENTISTS TELL US ABOUT THEIR LIFE AND WORK, PART 4

Quoted from Marilyn G. Farquhar in 2013 interview by C. Sedwick (Journal of Cell Biology, volume 203, pages 554-555).
Quoted from Marilyn G. Farquhar in 2013 interview by C. Sedwick (Journal of Cell Biology, volume 203, pages 554-555).

 

In this series, I am recommending to you a few life stories about real scientists.  I prefer to let these scientists tell their own stories where possible.  Autobiographical accounts are interesting and entertaining for both non-scientists and other scientists.  My selections here mostly involve scientists I either know personally or at least know about.  If further materials like this are needed, they can be obtained readily on the internet or with input from librarians at public or university libraries, science teachers, and other scientists.

In the preceding segment of this series, the life story of a world-renowned research scientist working in Astrophysics was recommended (see “Scientists Tell Us About Their Life and Work, Part 3”).  Part 4 presents the activities and life of an experimental researcher who succeeded in bridging the gap between pathology and cell biology, and who today remains a very active research leader in modern cell biology.

Part 4 Recommendations:  EXPERIMENTAL PATHOLOGY & CELL BIOLOGY

Prof. Marilyn G. Farquhar (1928 – present) applied her many research skills to vigorously investigating the fine structure of kidney cells during several renal diseases.  These results greatly advanced understanding about the function and dysfunction of the filtration barrier during different disease states, and helped establish the now-routine use of electron microscopy of kidney biopsies for clinical diagnosis.  Her subsequent productive investigations in cell biology on the Golgi bodies, intercellular junctions, intracellular sorting and trafficking,  lysosomes and autophagy, protein secretion and uptake, receptor-mediated endocytosis, and, G-proteins have greatly enlarged modern understanding about the dynamics of subcellular structure and function.  Prof. Farquhar’s experimental work, research publications, and teaching lectures always are characterized by their completeness, uniform high quality, and establishment of connections to other research results.  She has served as the elected President of the American Society for Cell Biology (1982), and has received many honors (e.g., the E. B. Wilson Medal from the American Society for Cell Biology (1987), the Rous-Whipple Award from the American Society for Investigative Pathology (2001), and the A. N. Richards Award from the International Society of Nephrology (2003)).

My first 3 recommendations below provide recent appreciations of Prof. Farquhar for her pioneering and much admired research accomplishments in experimental renal pathology.  The fourth recommendation briefly recounts the delightful story of her life as an acclaimed  research scientist, based upon a very recent interview.

UCSD School of Medicine News, April 4, 2001.  Marilyn Gist Farquhar wins Rous-Whipple Award.  Available on the internet at:  http://health.ucsd.edu/news/2001/04_04_Farquhar.html .

Kerjaschki D, 2003.  Presentation of the 2003 A. N. Richards Award to Marilyn Farquhar by the International Society of Nephrology.  Kidney International, 64:1941-1942.  Available on the internet at:
http://nature.com/ki/journal/v64/n5/full/4494114a.html .

Farquhar, M., 2003.  Acceptance of the 2003 A. N. Richards Award.  Kidney International, 64:1943-1944.  Available on the internet at:
http://www.nature.com/ki/journal/v64/n5/full/4494115a.html .

Sedwick, C., 2013.  Marilyn Farquhar from the beginning.  Journal of Cell Biology  203: 554-555.  Available on the internet at:  http://jcb.rupress.org/content/203/4/554.full.pdf .

 

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SCIENTISTS TELL US ABOUT THEIR LIFE AND WORK, PART 2

Prof. Keith R. Porter (right) receives the USA National Medal of Science from President Jimmy Carter (left) at the White House in 1977.  Photograph by an unnamed White House staff photographer.
Prof. Keith R. Porter (right) receives the USA National Medal of Science from President Jimmy Carter (left) at the White House in 1977.  Photograph by an unnamed White House staff photographer.

 

In this series, I am recommending to you a few life stories about real scientists.  I prefer to let these scientists tell their own stories where possible.  Autobiographical accounts are interesting and entertaining for both non-scientists and other scientists.  My selections here mostly involve scientists I either know personally or at least know about.  If further materials like this are needed, they can be obtained readily on the internet or with input from librarians at public or university libraries, science teachers, and other scientists.

In the preceding Part 1 of this series, the life story of a world-renowned research scientist working in Nanoscience and Nanotechnology was recommended (see “Scientists Tell Us About Their Life and Work, Part 1”).  Part 2 presents fascinating materials about a wonderful research leader who was instrumental in founding 2 different bioscience societies, and was a pioneer in discovering how to get cells to reveal their secrets by means of electron microscopy.

Part 2 Recommendations:  CELL BIOLOGY

Prof. Keith R. Porter (1912 – 1997) is renowned today as a major co-founder of the modern science discipline, cell biology.  With his pioneering use of electron microscopy, he was able to define the organelles and macromolecular assemblies found inside cells, thereby setting the stage for interpreting other research findings coming from biochemistry, biophysics, cell physiology, and molecular genetics.  These results and his new concepts caused a large breakthrough in our understanding about relationships between structure and function in eukaryotic cells.  A good number of Porter’s younger associates in cell biology, experimental cellular pathology, and neuroscience went on to become famous research leaders.  Prof. Porter was honored with the USA National Medal of Science by President Jimmy Carter in 1977.

I am recommending 3 different articles about this outstanding biomedical scientist.  The first is a memoir about Prof. Porter composed by one of his long-time research co-workers, Prof. Lee D. Peachey (University of Pennsylvania); it includes several candid photographs from different periods in Porter’s career, some of which reflect his enthusiastic sense of humor.  The second nicely describes his many important activities and different research accomplishments.  The third is one of Porter’s own articles, relating the difficult technical innovations and engineering efforts needed to invent and develop effective methods for making meaningful images of cells and their internal parts with the electron microscope.

Peachey, L.D., 2006.  Keith Roberts Porter, biographical memoirs.  Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society  150:685-696.  Available on the internet at:
http://www.amphilsoc.org/sites/default/files/proceedings/150416.pdf/ .

University of Colorado Libraries (Boulder), 2014.  Biographical Sketch.  In: Guide to the Keith R. Porter Papers (1938-1993), Archives, pages 3-5.  Available on the internet at:
https://ucblibraries.colorado.edu/archives/guides/porter_guide.pdf .

Pease, D.C. & Porter, K.R., 1981.  Electron microscopy and ultramicrotomy.  Journal of Cell Biology  91:287s-292s.  Available on the internet at:
http://jcb.rupress.org/content/91/3/287s.full.pdf .

 

 

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