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Oct 07, 2013 11:04 AM EDT

2013 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine to Be Shared By 2 Americans and a German

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The 2013 Nobel Prize in Medicine winners are a trio of American scientists - Randy W. Schekman, professor of molecular and cell biology at the University of California, Berkeley; James E. Rothman of Yale University and Thomas C. Sudhof of Stanford University, the Nobel Assembly announced.

The American cell physiology researchers have received the most prestigious award for their discoveries related to vesicle traffic.

"My first reaction was, "Oh, my god!" Schekman said in an official statement. "That was also my second reaction."

Schekman is credited for his work on how yeast secretes proteins. This discovery directly led to the success of the biotechnology industry, which was able to make useful protein drugs such as insulin and human growth factor from yeasts.

"Ten percent of the proteins that cells make are secreted, including growth factors and hormones, neurotransmitters by nerve cells and insulin from pancreas cells," Schekman said.

All the three scientists have discovered 'a fundamental process of cell physiology,' Nobel Committee Chairman Juleen Zierath said, according to the Wall Street Journal. "Their discoveries have had a major impact to advance the understanding of the machinery regulating vesicle traffic,"

Neuroscientist Südhof, MD, professor of molecular and cellular physiology at the Stanford University School of Medicine, has spent the past 30 years trying to decode the secrets of the synapse. Synapse is an all-important junction where information, in the form of chemical messengers called neurotransmitters, is passed from one neuron to another.

(Photo : Stanford University)
Thomas Sudhof

"The computing power of a human or animal brain is much, much higher than that of any computer," said Südhof in an official statement. Südhof, a German, moved to the U.S. in the 1980s.

 "A synapse is not just a relay station. It is not even like a computer chip, which is an immutable element. Every synapse is like a nanocomputer all by itself. The amount of neurotransmitter released, or even whether that release occurs at all, depends on that particular synapse's previous experience."

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