Editorial: In making breakthrough discoveries, scientists often prove skeptics wrong
Published: Monday, October 7, 2013
Updated: Monday, October 7, 2013 23:10
On Oct. 7th, three scientists won the 2013 Nobel Prize in Medicine. Dr. James Rothman, 62, of Yale University, Randy Schekman, 64, of University Of California Berkley, and Thomas C. Südhof, 57, of Stanford University.
Their research investigated the way cells, which produce an enormous amount of chemicals, transport and export these molecules within the cell and export them to the surface to be received by other cell. This complex system of shipping and receiving was researched by the Nobel Prize winners, as they specifically mapped this intricate and complex structure. When the molecules are synthesized inside the cell, they are “packaged” into fatty membrane packets noted by cell biologists as vesicles.
Each of the Nobel Prize winners was able to determine different aspects of the vesicle that enabled the cell to ensure that the molecules are being shipped to the correct destination at precisely the right time.
According to the New York Times, “Dr. Schekman discovered a set of genes that were required for vesicle traffic. Dr. Rothman unraveled protein machinery that allows vesicles to fuse with their targets to permit transfer of cargo. Dr. Südhof revealed how signals instruct vesicles to release their cargo with precision.”
Vesicles are crucial to maintaining a stable and functioning environment, they are responsible for transporting essential neurotransmitters released in the brain to direct the manufacture of hormones in the body, to transporting vital immune response to fight viral infections. Evidently, all these processes are necessitated at specific times, and when this shipment process is delayed, major complications are bound to occur.
All three Nobel Prize winners were awarded 8 million Swedish crowns, equivalent to $1.2 million. This award could not have come at a better time to the world of medical research as the National Institutes of Health was recently shut down due to the furlough.
This research is essential to understanding and hopefully curing many diseases such as diabetes, Alzheimer’s and many other psychiatric diseases, as they have been shown to be a result of a malfunctioning “shipping system.”
However, all three researchers stated to the New York Times that when they took on their research, they faced skepticism from the scientific community. Ironically, the scientific community will now base their future research off of three Nobel Laureates’ work.
Science is a discipline in which the only limit is one’s imagine. By allowing the researchers to continue explore the limits of their thoughts, complex problems can be solved, as in the case with Schekman, Rothman and Südhof.