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Three scientists were awarded the 2013 Nobel Prize in medicine or physiology on Monday for their discovery in how animal cells precisely organize themselves for the transport of materials.
It is known that cells use vesicles, little air bubbles within the cell, which fuse with the cell membrane and either leave the cell through exocytosis, or enter the cell by endocytosis, in order to transport materials out of and into the cell, respectively. Vesicles carry important materials, such as neurotransmitters, hormones and enzymes, among others.
The scientists awarded the Nobel Prize today, James E. Rothman, Randy W. Schekman and Thomas C. Sudhof, went further than this, in a discovery the Nobel Assembly has stated has “solved the mystery of how the cell organizes its transport system,” CNN reports.
Yale University professor Rothman, professor at University of California, Berkeley Schekman and Stanford University professor Sudhof respectively showed how attached proteins on vesicles allowed them to properly transport material, for discovering the genes required for vesicle transport, and for discovering the mechanism behind how vesicles release materials, particularly neurotransmitters, at precisely the right time.
The discoveries also shed light on disorders such as diabetes, Reuters reports. For example, it is now known how insulin, the hormone which regulates blood sugar levels in the body, is released at exactly the right time and exactly the right place—which may lead to future breakthroughs in this, and other autoimmune diseases.