Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Ribosome scientists win 2009 Nobel Prize in Chemistry

EXTRA! EXTRA! This news just in from the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences . . .

The 2009 Nobel Prize in Chemistry has been awarded jointly to

Venkatraman Ramakrishnan
MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology, Cambridge,
United Kingdom

Thomas A. Steitz
Yale University, New Haven, CT, USA

Ada E. Yonath
Weizmann Institute of Science, Rehovot, Israel

"for studies of the structure and function of the ribosome"

As I've mentioned in yesterday's "extra edition" of The A&P Professor, as well as in previous posts, I love to tie major awards and other news about major discoveries in the recent history of science into what we are actually learning in A&P class. And the real people behind these discoveries.

Wow, this morning's announcement for the chemistry prize couldn't have been better timed. Not long ago we wrestled with the story of protein synthesis and my students slowly realized the critical role of the ribosome's structure in that story.

An understanding of the ribosome's innermost workings is important for a scientific understanding of life. This knowledge can be put to a practical and immediate use; many of today's antibiotics cure various diseases by blocking the function of bacterial ribosomes. Without functional ribosomes, bacteria cannot survive. This is why ribosomes are such an important target for new antibiotics.

This year's Nobel Laureates in Chemistry have all generated 3D models that show how different antibiotics bind to the ribosome. These models are now used by scientists in order to develop new antibiotics, directly assisting the saving of lives and decreasing humanity's suffering.

This gives us an opportunity to show how understanding the "basic science" that are teaching translates (ahem) into applications in "the real world."

Want to know more?

"Public" summary
[PDF article intended for the general reader; does a good job of recapping the role of the ribosome within the big picture of biology, includes some nice graphics that you can use in your class plus links for further reading]

Scientific Background
[PDF article directed at those of use with some science background; well-written summary of the ribosome and the evolution of scientific discovery leading to the awarding of this prize; includes some good graphics; comprehensive list of scientific references]

Other resources

Nobel's "useful links and further reading"

FREE image of ribosome's role in translation

FREE image of detailed ribosome structure

Additional FREE ribosome images

NOTE: I apologize to my email subscribers who received two posts yesterday instead of one. I've adjusted the timing so you should only get one delivery on these rare occasions when I have an "immediate" post to send to you.

{Some content of this post came from the Nobel organization}

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