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American Scientists Win Nobel Prize In Chemistry

Soulskill posted about 2 years ago | from the not-for-cooking-meth dept.

Science 40

SchrodingerZ writes "Two Americans have won the 2012 Nobel prize in Chemistry for their work in cell research. Their work involves the discovery and manipulation of the G-protein-coupled receptors, which detect signals outside the of cells they inhabit. 'The human body has about 1,000 kinds of such receptors, which enable it to respond to a wide variety of chemical signals, like adrenaline. Some receptors are in the nose, tongue and eyes, and let us sense smells, tastes and vision.' The winners are Robert J. Lefkowitz and Brian K. Kobilka. Lefkowitz works at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and is a professor at Duke University Medical Center in Durham, North Carolina. Kobilka is a professor at Stanford University School of Medicine in California. Their research has helped create newer and more effective drugs with fewer side effects. More on G Protein-coupled Receptor research can be found in the Journal of Biological Chemistry."

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40 comments

100% Certain and Guaranteed (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41613221)

These scientists are not black. None of them. Blacks don't do things like this. Blacks are a net drain on society. Their miniscule contributions are grossly outweighed by the social costs of political division, electing Obama, courts, police, incarceration, bastard children, affirmative action, gangsta culture, crime, and inner cities no one wants to live in anymore.

Re:100% Certain and Guaranteed (2)

wierd_w (1375923) | about 2 years ago | (#41613287)

You are an idiot.

Please die in a fire.

Re:100% Certain and Guaranteed (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41613347)

You are an idiot.

Please die in a fire.

So you'll be naming the scientist involved in this who is black and provide references?

No? Can't do it? Rather make infantile personal attacks? Maybe the flames should be for you.

Re:100% Certain and Guaranteed (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41613565)

Regardless, they STILL did more than you as it relates to bettering humanity as a whole.

Re:100% Certain and Guaranteed (0)

Spy Handler (822350) | about 2 years ago | (#41613569)

well Mr. KKK, let's try this from a different angle. Jews are also a blight and net drain on society according to your doctrine, yes? How do you account for the large number of Jews winning Nobel prizes?

Re:100% Certain and Guaranteed (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41613783)

"How do you account for the large number of Jews winning Nobel prizes"

Are you saying the winners are Jewish Pollacks?

Re:100% Certain and Guaranteed (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41614207)

Lefkowitz is Jewish. Do you have a problem with that? Give me your address, I'll resolve it for you.

Re:100% Certain and Guaranteed (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41619823)

What we need to do is to identify the Jews that are likely to win Nobel prizes and convert them to Islam.

Well Earned and Long Deserved! (2)

PHCOSci (1771552) | about 2 years ago | (#41613265)

Well. That was an unfortunate first post. But disregarding that, these two were long past due on earning the Nobel for this work. It has been the foundation for nearly 30% of all therapeutic pharmaceuticals worldwide. I've had the opportunity to meet and work with those trained by Lefkowitz and his impact in the sciences, and in particular pharmacology, will be felt for generations.

Congratulations to them both!

Re:Well Earned and Long Deserved! (1)

wierd_w (1375923) | about 2 years ago | (#41613467)

More than just that, the mechanisms implicated in intercellular communication are involved in a great many areas, including new and novel approaches to regenerative medicine such as stem cell treatments, and in emerging fields like biotechnology.

This is fundemental science.

It deserves recognition.

Re:Well Earned and Long Deserved! (4, Informative)

the gnat (153162) | about 2 years ago | (#41613759)

these two were long past due on earning the Nobel for this work

Kobilka was hardly "long past due" - he isn't getting the prize for his work with Lefkowitz, he's getting it for the first structure of the beta-adrenergic receptor (and more generally, for figuring out how to make GPCR crystallization feasible), which was only in 2007, and especially for the structure of the GPCR:G-protein complex which was just published last year [nih.gov] . Quite a few people expected that to seal the deal, but this is a relatively quick prize.

Chemistry vs. Biology (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41613299)

That sounds more like biology to me; the name of the journal makes it clear that it's near the boundary between the two.

Could they also win the Nobel in biology for the same thing?

Re:Chemistry vs. Biology (2)

PHCOSci (1771552) | about 2 years ago | (#41613355)

The committee wouldn't award the same individuals for the same work in two different disciplines.

They were given the Chemistry Nobel because the chief effort and original determination of the existence of these receptors was a chemistry-heavy endeavor. We call it "Biochemistry", but really it's just the application of precise and exhaustive principles of chemistry to a biological system.

Even now, most of the individuals working to understand these receptors are chiefly chemists and biochemists. First order rate constants, reaction equilibrium calculations, binding constants, and more.

Re:Chemistry vs. Biology (3, Informative)

interkin3tic (1469267) | about 2 years ago | (#41613489)

There is no category for biology Nobel prize. It's either medicine, physiology, or chemistry for all nobel winners who were biologists.

I think they should establish one, but there's obviously quite a long tradition to consider there.

Small correction (2)

slew (2918) | about 2 years ago | (#41613633)

It's Physiology or Medicine [wikipedia.org] (there aren't separate categories for Medicine and Physiology)...

Also, in 1994, the winners for Physiology or Medicine got their award for their discovery of G-proteins and the role of these proteins in signal transduction in cells [nobelprize.org] (as opposed to studies of G-protein-coupled receptors for the 2012 winners). That's a pretty subtle difference for categorization if you ask me...

Re:Small correction (2)

the gnat (153162) | about 2 years ago | (#41613797)

I'm a biochemist and crystallographer by training, so I don't mind that they won the chemistry prize for this... but I have to admit, this fits a lot better with the "physiology or medicine" category. Still, no one has ever turned down a Nobel prize because they won it in the wrong category.

Re:Small correction (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41614377)

Still, no one has ever turned down a Nobel prize because they won it in the wrong category.

Perhaps, two people have voluntarily turned down Nobel prizes: Jean-Paul_Sartre (literature), Le Duc Tho (peace). And a couple that were close calls (Banting, Feynman).

There were also a German that probably should have refused more vigorously (Gerhard Domagk, got arrested for not refusing his prize more vigorously). And perhaps a few more that probably didn't deserve them in the first place (Macleod, Fleming, Baltimore, Shockley, Obama).

Also, many have been clearly in the wrong category. For example, in 1944, Otto Hahn won in Chemistry in for his discovery of the fission of heavy atomic nuclei.

Re:Chemistry vs. Biology (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41613689)

Don't complain. Rutherford won the Chemistry prize for basically discovering nuclear physics. He was annoyed that he would forever be labeled a chemist.

When the fields overlap the Nobel Committee can basically pick whichever one is more convenient for the year.

Re:Chemistry vs. Biology (1)

fearofcarpet (654438) | about 2 years ago | (#41616255)

Don't complain. Rutherford won the Chemistry prize for basically discovering nuclear physics. He was annoyed that he would forever be labeled a chemist.

When the fields overlap the Nobel Committee can basically pick whichever one is more convenient for the year.

Nuclear physics or nuclear chemistry? [wikipedia.org] . It can be hard to apply the labels of modern scientific disciplines to past research. Faraday [wikipedia.org] was a chemist by today's definition, but was probably just considered a "scientist" in his day because he was really discovering some of the underpinnings of what would become modern chemistry. Linus Pauling [nobelprize.org] studied under Schrodinger and Bohr and much of his work is easily classifiable as physics (but he considered himself a chemist). Much of the evolution of Chemistry into a core science completely separate from Physics was the result of people like Rutherford, Bohr, Schrodinger, and Pauling. The 2012 chemistry prize, I think, exemplifies the same evolution in biochemistry, which started as more of an outgrowth of physical organic chemistry. But, as you say, the Nobel committee has to stuff them into either Chemistry or Medicine/Physiology because Biochemistry isn't an option.

Headline (1)

Translation Error (1176675) | about 2 years ago | (#41613559)

You know, I can see that the research subject could be news for nerds and matter, but why does the headline simply state the nationality of the scientists who won a Nobel Prize instead of saying anything, well, important or interesting?

Re:Headline (3, Interesting)

wierd_w (1375923) | about 2 years ago | (#41613629)

Sadly, there seems to be this irrational need by many people to ascribe greatness to a group by vicariously claiming a portion of the grandeur by association.

Eg, because they were American scientists, this makes America greater, and by association, americans greater.

Nevermind that this innately divisive, unnecessary, unwarranted, stupid, and wasteful. It makes people completely unrelated to the subject matter, ans who do not comprehend the implication of the awarded science behind the award, to feel good about themselves, by excluding others.

The reality is that it should not and does not matter which country the scientists who undertook this work were from. The work benefits all of mankind as a whole, which is exactly why a nobel prize could be awarded.

Needless to say, I find the rationale behind the sensationalism concerning nationality in the announcement to be offensive, and I happen to be an american.

Re:Headline (1)

misexistentialist (1537887) | about 2 years ago | (#41614569)

Maybe if Americans identified a little more taxpayer funding would pour into research and science education would be encouraged on every level until America won at science! Group pride is a little silly, but if the country produced zero scientific discoveries group shame would surely be justified.

Re:Headline (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41615453)

Or because people from other countries love to point out how totally incompetent Americans are supposed to be. Hell, a kind of dissociative self-loathing is pretty popular here, too. It's petty and largely unjustified.

Even more annoying, when Americans win Nobel prizes, or win at the Olympics, or invent something brilliant, etc... it's nothing but attempts to undercut any achievement and/or, "Why did you have to point out they're American? Why don't you recognize the individual without mentioning country of origin?"

It's sad, because there's nothing wrong with being proud of other Americans for doing something good. I'm happy for everyone that achieves something great. I get a little extra in the way of warm fuzzies when it's someone that lives where I do. That's not "wrong".

Re:Headline (1)

the eric conspiracy (20178) | about 2 years ago | (#41614579)

Wait until the first Chinese citizen wins a science Nobel.

Then you will experience the full scope of this phenomena, and realize how mild the US reaction to this sort of thing is.

Tomorrow the Nobel in Literature will be awarded. One of the favorites to win is a Japanese author Haruki Murakami who recently had his books banned in China.

Re:Headline (1)

sumdumass (711423) | about 2 years ago | (#41615693)

Do you mean something will happen differently then when the other 6 who have won them?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Nobel_laureates_by_country [wikipedia.org]

There has been 2 within the last 3 years too.

Re:Headline (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41616541)

Do you mean something will happen differently then when the other 6 who have won them?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Nobel_laureates_by_country [wikipedia.org]

There has been 2 within the last 3 years too.

Sorry to debunk your debunking, but if you read your own link you will discover that every one of the *science* Nobels you reference went to ethnic Chinese *Americans*.

Re:Headline (1)

sumdumass (711423) | about 2 years ago | (#41620951)

Wow..you are right. The way they are listed is misleading as hell. They are listed for China because they were born there but credited as being an American or British scientist when they got their Nobel..

Re:Headline (1)

dnahelicase (1594971) | about 2 years ago | (#41613809)

You know, I can see that the research subject could be news for nerds and matter, but why does the headline simply state the nationality of the scientists who won a Nobel Prize instead of saying anything, well, important or interesting?

I think it is news that they are Americans, and I find it interesting.

I mean, we've been stripping basic research funding to the bone, and then some. Many of our politicians don't really see any benefit since "We need to balance the budget, and it has to start somewhere." has become the mantra for cutting things that are politically easy to cut.

Granted, these guys aren't doing this research now, and it has become fundamental, but it's probably not going to be very long before seeing an American win a Nobel in science is rare. I mean, sure, they don't need to put that in the title, but since when has /. had good story titles?

Re:Headline (1)

the gnat (153162) | about 2 years ago | (#41614051)

we've been stripping basic research funding to the bone, and then some.

I'm a biochemist working for the US federal government, and this is not very accurate.

What really happened was that the NIH budget grew explosively in the late 90s and early 00s, along with the government encouraging the training of new PhD students. This produced a glut of junior scientists, and the expectation that funding would continue to rise. When the economy tanked and the fiscal situation became more difficult (and Congress started passing continuing resolutions instead of real budgets), the funding was basically frozen. Obviously this has made it much more difficult to obtain funding, which is of course dismaying if you're one of those junior researchers. But it's hardly been sacrificed on the altar of fiscal prudence. In fact, the NIH has excellent bipartisan support; the Republicans have been very generous in that regard, despite their reputation.

It's possible the NIH will have to take a cut along with everyone else, but speaking as someone who depends on the NIH for funding, and really enjoys his job, I'd have a hard time arguing that we shouldn't share some of the pain. In fact, I rather think we shouldn't be training quite so many grad students, because there simply aren't enough private sector jobs to go around, and no one wants to be a postdoc forever. I really hope the time comes when the NIH funding can increase again, or maybe private donors get more involved. But considering the current state of the federal government, I think we're doing quite well.

Disclaimer: I speak only for myself, not the government.

Granted, these guys aren't doing this research now, and it has become fundamental, but it's probably not going to be very long before seeing an American win a Nobel in science is rare

Brian Kobilka is winning the prize for work done in the last five years. The crowning achievement is the publication last year of a GPCR bound to its cognate G-protein, which made the cover of Nature. The only groups publishing GPCR structures right now are in the US and UK/Switzerland. The US is doing very, very well in this field, and there is no reason why that can't continue; Kobilka will have zero problem getting his grants renewed.

GPCRs (4, Informative)

Hatta (162192) | about 2 years ago | (#41613649)

Some GPCRs you may know and love include:

D3 Dopamine receptors - mediate the reinforcing effects of pleasure
Mu Opioid receptors - mediate pain and the effects of morphine, etc.
A1 & A2 Adenosine receptors - mediate the effects of caffeine
CB1 Endocannabinoid receptors - mediate the effects of THC
5-HT2a Serotonin receptors - mediate the effect of LSD
NK1r Neurokinin receptor - mediates pain and the effect of capsaicin.
H1 Histamine receptor - mediates cellular permeability (causing leaky noses) and the effects of benadryl, zyrtec, etc
H2 Histamine receptor - mediates release of gastric acid and the effects of zantac, etc.

These things are everywhere and modulate just about everything.

Re:GPCRs (1)

rtb61 (674572) | about 2 years ago | (#41616437)

So how far off is the woohoo inhaler, hmm ;)?

Newer and More Effective (2)

Mixology (2749857) | about 2 years ago | (#41613941)

Because I'd hate to think that their research helped create older and more effective drugs. Because I come out in a rash when causality is violated. Seriously it's really itchy.

The Bronx HS Of Science (2)

CharlieG (34950) | about 2 years ago | (#41614197)

And as Dr. Robert Lefkowitz is BxSci class of 59, this is the 8th Nobel won by one of their Grads (the other 7 are in Physics), Not bad for one High school - more than all of Australia

Re:The Bronx HS Of Science (0)

clarkkent09 (1104833) | about 2 years ago | (#41614907)

And as Dr. Robert Lefkowitz is BxSci class of 59, this is the 8th Nobel won by one of their Grads (the other 7 are in Physics), Not bad for one High school - more than all of Australia

And (except for the bogus peace prize) twice as many as all of the world's Muslims [wikipedia.org] .

Re:The Bronx HS Of Science (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41616495)

What in mohammad's name does being muslim have to do with it? What about the number of homosexuals who have won a Nobel prize? Oh, I see what you did there...

Re:The Bronx HS Of Science (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41616485)

WTF does being muslim have to do with it? What about the number of homosexuals who have won a Nobel prize? Oh, I see what you did there...

America still has scientists? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41616957)

Wow, I guess a few must have slipped through the republican / theocrat / creationist net.

Another American outstanding in chemistry (1)

einar2 (784078) | about 2 years ago | (#41621441)

Well, there was another American mentioned these days for his advanced knowledge of chemistry...
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