Noble Prize in Medicine for work on Cells and Oxygen


Royal Swedish academy of Science, on 8th of October 2018 announced the good news for trio who have worked on cells and oxygen. These three scientists have made discoveries and their theories have made our understanding of cells better. William G. Kaelin Jr. of the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Harvard University, Peter J. Ratcliffe of Oxford University and the Francis Crick Institute and Gregg L. Semenza of Johns Hopkins University were jointly awarded the prize. They discovered how cells possess the ability to sense and adapt to variation in oxygen levels

Previously, it was believed that these adaptations were due to restrictions in oxygen supply to the body. This was studied under hypoxia, which means low levels of oxygen. People associated the phenomenon to conditions like breathing issues at high altitude, but Mr. Ratcliffe stated that hypoxia has the potential to be an important factor contributing to serious diseases like cancer, heart disease, stroke, vascular disease, and anemia.

This discovery has paved way to fight diseases like cancer and anemia. Bases of their research is the adaptability of cells in conditions where oxygen levels fluctuate. As a part of their discovery, they found the molecular switch or mechanism that regulates the response of cells when oxygen level drops. Under normal working conditions, cells and numerous tissues experience constant changes due to variations in the availability of oxygen. In cases where muscles work, or an embryo grows etcetera, the level of available oxygen changes as tissues change themselves while undergrowing certain processes. Hence it is imperative for cells to adjust to these changes in oxygen level, while still be able to do the desired task.

The committee that nominated the trio believed that it would to correct to state the discovery as a ‘textbook discovery.’ Since these revelations can have huge impact in the field of physiology and could possibly lead to inventing new methods and strategies to solve major diseases, especially cancer. For their amazing discovery, the trio received recognition and a prize money of 9 million Swedish-crown.

William G. Kaelin Jr was born in New York and did his M.D from the renounced Duke University. He received specialized training in internal medicine form Johns Hopkins, Baltimore, and oncology from the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Boston. Gregg L. Semenza was also born in New York. He did his Bachelor of Arts degree in Biology from the renounced Harvard university. And later did his M.D and Ph.D from University of Pennsylvania’s school of medicine. He received his specialized training at the Duke University in Pediatrics and is currently the director of Vascular Research Program at the Johns Hopkins Institute for Cell Engineering. Peter J. Ratcliffe, unlike his American partner, is British born in Lancashire. Studied medicine at Gonville and Caius College at Cambridge University. He received his specialist training from Oxford in Nephrology. He currently the director of clinical research at the Francis Crick Institute in London, the director of the Target Discovery Institute in Oxford and a member of the Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research.


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