Press release: http://www.nobel.se/medicine/laureates/2001/press.html
All organisms consist of cells that multiply through cell division. An adult human being has approximately 100 000 billion cells, all originating from a single cell, the fertilized egg cell. In adults there is also an enormous number of continuously dividing cells replacing those dying. Before a cell can divide it has to grow in size, duplicate its chromosomes and separate the chromosomes for exact distribution between the two daughter cells. These different processes are coordinated in the cell cycle.
This year's Nobel Laureates in Physiology or Medicine have made seminal discoveries concerning the control of the cell cycle. They have identified key molecules that regulate the cell cycle in all eukaryotic organisms, including yeasts, plants, animals and human. These fundamental discoveries have a great impact on all aspects of cell growth. Defects in cell cycle control may lead to the type of chromosome alterations seen in cancer cells. This may in the long term open new possibilities for cancer treatment.
Leland Hartwell (born 1939), Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, Seattle, USA, is awarded for his discoveries of a specific class of genes that control the cell cycle. One of these genes called "start" was found to have a central role in controlling the first step of each cell cycle. Hartwell also introduced the concept "checkpoint", a valuable aid to understanding the cell cycle.
Paul Nurse (born 1949), Imperial Cancer Research Fund, London, identified, cloned and characterized with genetic and molecular methods, one of the key regulators of the cell cycle, CDK (cyclin dependent kinase). He showed that the function of CDK was highly conserved during evolution. CDK drives the cell through the cell cycle by chemical modification (phosphorylation) of other proteins.
Timothy Hunt (born 1943), Imperial Cancer Research Fund, London, is awarded for his discovery of cyclins, proteins that regulate the CDK function. He showed that cyclins are degraded periodically at each cell division, a mechanism proved to be of general importance for cell cycle control.
Message posted by: Frank S. Zollmann
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