STOCKHOLM – The 2012 Nobel Prize in chemistry has been awarded to two American researchers for their studies on how body cells react to their environments.
Robert Lefkowitz and Brian Kobilka were recognized for their “groundbreaking discoveries that reveal the inner workings of an important family of receptors, known as G-protein-coupled receptors,” announced the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences.
“Your body is a fine-tuned system of interactions between billions of cells,” the Nobel Committee explained. “Each cell has tiny receptors that enable it to sense its environment, so it can adapt to new situations.”
For instance, you hear a loud bang. You are startled, your whole body jumps, your heart pounds. Your brain is sending nerve signals to warn your body. Your adrenal gland has been awakened and it is pumping cortisol, adrenalin and noradrenalin into your body. A multitude of cells have reacted at the same time - thanks to the sensors on the cell surface, they have sensed that something was happening.
These sensors are called receptors. For a long time, scientists have been trying to find these receptors, to understand what they look like and how they send their signals to our cells.
After decades of research, Lefkowitz and Kobilka were able, in 2011, to get an image of the receptor at the moment that it transfers its signal from the outside of the cell to the G-protein on the inside of the cell.
Read more about their groundbreaking research here.
Images courtesy of nobelprize.org.