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Oct 7, 2019

2019 Nobel Prize in Medicine Goes to Researchers Who Unraveled How Cells Sense Oxygen

Posted by in categories: biotech/medical, genetics

A trio of researchers from the U.S. and the UK has won the 2019 Nobel Prize in Medicine, the first of five prizes to be announced this week. On Monday in Sweden, the Nobel committee announced that Americans William Kaelin Jr. and Gregg Semenza, along with Peter Ratcliffe, would split the nearly million-dollar prize for their work in unraveling a fundamental aspect of life: how our cells keep track of and respond to fluctuating oxygen levels.

This year’s prize was decades in the making.

Though we’ve long known that our cells need oxygen to produce energy and keep us alive, we were largely in the dark on how cells sensed oxygen, or how they managed to adapt in times of low oxygen, a state known as hypoxia. In the early 1990s, Gregg Semenza, currently of Johns Hopkins University, and his team discovered some of the key genetic machinery that cells use to detect hypoxia and then respond by producing a hormone called erythropoietin (EPO).

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