Vital ingredients of life including enzymes, hormones and oxygen are shipped around every cell in our body in tiny packages called vesicles. Today, 10 December 2013, three scientists who discovered how this busy transport network is organised to enable cargoes to arrive at the right place at the right time, are being awarded the Nobel Prize for Medicine in Stockholm. The American Randy Schekman (inset, middle) identified three classes of genes that control different aspects of the transport network in yeast – a cell from his studies, with vesicles marked by arrows, is pictured. His compatriot James Rothman (top) discovered how a protein complex, relating to these yeast genes but also produced in mammals, guides vesicles to dock and fuse with cell membranes, while the German scientist Thomas Südhof (bottom) identified the chemical process that causes the cargoes to be released. Almost all branches of medicine could benefit from these discoveries.
Written by Mick Warwicker
BPoD stands for Biomedical Picture of the Day. Managed by the MRC Clinical Sciences Centre the website aims to engage everyone, young and old, in the wonders of biomedicine. Images are kindly provided for inclusion on this website through the generosity of scientists across the globe.