2019 Nobel Prize: Medicine

Britain’s Peter Ratcliffe and William Kaelin and Gregg Semenza of US shared the 2019 Nobel Medicine Prize for their work on how cells sense and adapt to oxygen availability. The team revealed the understanding of how oxygen levels affect cellular metabolism.

Kaelin works at Howard Hughes Medical Institute, US. Semenza is the director of Vascular Research program at Hopkins Institute of Cell Engineering. Ratcliffe is the director of Francis Crick Institute in London.

The trio will share prize money of 914,000 USD.

About the research

  • The team identified the molecular machinery that regulates the activity of genes to varying levels of oxygen.
  • It has paved way to understand the strategies to fight cancer, anemia and other diseases.
  • Based on their findings,many laboratories and pharmaceutical companies are now on the path of developing drugs that can interfere with disease states by activating or blocking the oxygen – level in the cells.

What is the research about?

Oxygen levels vary in different parts of the body at different instances after a wound, while exercising or during a brisk walk. Based on the availability of oxygen, the metabolism of these cells differ. The cells produce new RBC or construct new blood vessels in a wound based on the oxygen levels. The trio found ‘how to adapt to changes in oxygen levels’. The fundamental job of cells is to convert oxygen into food. The drawback is that these cells experience constant variations in availability of oxygen.

When the level of oxygen in the cells drops, HIF in the cells increases. HIF is Hypoxia – Inducible Factors and are protein complexes. this increases the activity of gene that are used in production of Erythropoietin Hormone. This increases the production of RBC. Hence, the research aids in treating anemia and cancer by controlling RBC growth.




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  • Dr.Cajetan Coelho

    Congratulations to Peter Ratcliffe, William Kaelin, and Gregg Semenza.