Earlier last week, the Nobel Prize Organization announced the recipients of the Nobel Prizes in the categories of Physiology or Medicine, Chemistry, and Physics, at a press conference at the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences in Sweden.
How an Alberta researcher’s discovery of hepatitis C led to the Nobel Prize and saved lives
This year, the 2020 Nobel Prize in Physiology and Medicine was awarded to virologists Harvey J. Alter, Charles M. Rice and biochemist Michael Houghton of the University of Alberta for their discovery of the hepatitis C virus.
This recognition is yet more evidence of the need for investigative research to tackle the devastation of viral disease.
It is estimated that hepatitis C resulted in about 400,000 deaths in 2016.
Similar to the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes COVID-19, hepatitis C is an RNA virus.
However, hepatitis C enters the body through the bloodstream, after which it attacks the liver leading to cirrhosis and liver cancer.
There is no vaccine for the hepatitis C virus, but the basic scientific discoveries of Nobel Prize winners have contributed to the development of antiviral drugs.
In 1989, Houghton – along with biochemist Qui-Lim Choo, geneticist Amy Weiner and virologists George Kuo, Lacy Overby and Daniel Bradley – reported the discovery of a new virus they ordered. name is hepatitis C-hepatitis C.
At that time, people knew nothing about this virus.
In 1975, Howard Alter discovered a fatal form of hepatitis in some patients who received a blood transfusion.
Charles Rice then proved that the virus that Houghton and his colleagues discovered was the cause of hepatitis C.
Houghton and his team have developed a hepatitis C vaccine that is currently in preclinical testing.
He is also a leader in resolving the COVID-19 pandemic.
His current research – funded by the Canadian Institute of Health Research – aims to develop a vaccine that fights the key proteins of viruses that infect humans.
Scientists win historic Nobel chemistry prize for ‘genetic scissors’
Emmanuelle Charpentier and Jennifer A. Doudna discovered one of the greatest tools in genetic engineering: the CRISPR / Cas9 molecular scissors.
Using them, researchers can alter the DNA of animals, plants and microorganisms with extreme precision.
This technology has had a powerful radically changing impact on life science, contributes to new cancer therapies, and could make the dream of curing genetic diseases a reality.
In the past, researchers needed to modify the genes in cells if they wanted to learn about the inner workings of life.
This was time-consuming, difficult and sometimes impossible work.
Using the CRISPR / Cas9 molecular pull, it is now possible to change the life code in just a few weeks.
During Emmanuelle Charpentier’s research on the bacterium Streptococcus Pyogenes, one of the most harmful bacteria to humans, she discovered a previously unknown molecule, tracrRNA.
Her work shows that tracrRNAs are part of the ancient immune system of bacteria, CRISPR / Cas, that clears viruses by cleaving their DNA.
Charpentier announced his discovery in 2011. The same year, she began collaborating with Jennifer Doudna, an experienced biochemist with vast knowledge of RNA.
The two scientists worked together and they succeeded in recreating the bacterial molecular scissors in a test tube and simplifying the molecular components of the scissors to make them easier to use.
In one time-changing experiment, they reprogrammed the genetic scissors. In their natural form, the scissors recognize DNA from the virus, but Charpentier and Doudna have shown that they can be controlled to cut any DNA molecule at a predetermined position. When DNA is cut, it is very easy to rewrite the code of life.
Blackhole breakthroughs win Nobel physics prize
This year’s Nobel Prize in Physics has been awarded to three scientists for their work on black holes.
British cosmologist Roger Penrose will receive half of the award, with the other half going to German astrophysicist Reinhard Genzel and American astrophysicist Andrea Ghez.
Ghez is the fourth woman in history to receive this prestigious physics award.
The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences recognized Penrose for “discovering that black hole formation is a sure predictor of general relativity”, while Ghez and Genzel were awarded “for their discovery. out a supermassive compact object at the center of our galaxy. “
Black holes are regions of space where gravity is so strong that no light can escape.
At the event, Ulf Danielsson, a physicist on the Nobel Committee for Physics, said to create a region of this space “you need to compress the sun into an area just a few kilometres across – or squeeze the Earth. down to the size of a pea. “
At the center of each black hole will be a “singularity”, a point at which gravity forces matter to an infinite density, covered by an “infinity horizon” of anything. Falling in is not possible back to the larger outer universe.
Although scientists have speculated about their existence for centuries, it is still unclear whether such extreme objects could occur.
Even Albert Einstein – whose general theory of relativity forms the basis of modernity for understanding black holes – doubted their existence.
But in 1965, Penrose, a physicist who worked with Stephen Hawking and now professor emeritus at Oxford University, mathematically “showed that black holes can exist, formed in a stable and robust process “is consistent with Einstein’s theory.
Penrose and Hawking have shown that, for certain types of stars, a black hole is an inevitable result of a star’s destruction.
The story of the discovery of black holes vividly demonstrates the power of pure mathematics in the quest for nature.
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