All of us. Thanks to James Allison and Tasuku Honjo, winners of the 2018 Nobel Prize in Medicine, we now have a much better understanding of cancer, and how to treat it. Allison and Honjo characterized two very important and potent pathways – called “immune checkpoints” – that can shut down the immune response (CTLA-4 and PD-1). Anyone heard of “monoclonal antibodies?” Of course you have, and well, that’s thanks to these two smart people. For a really good article on their discovery and what it has led to go here. Dr. Allison is currently working at MD Anderson and you can see a short video of him here. MD Anderson has a very nice 3-minute video on “What is immunotherapy” that is worth a watch. Everyone together now, say “thanks guys”
Some other Nobel winners InsightCity readers will recognize as people who’ve made all our lives better are the recipients of the Nobel Chemistry Prize. One half of that goes to Frances H. Arnold, who was the first to use directed evolution to speed up the production of useful enzymes. Arnold becomes the fifth woman to win a Nobel Chemistry Prize, so hopefully they’ll soon catch up with men named John, who currently have seven between them. The other half goes to George P. Smith and Sir Gregory P. Winter, who used bacteriophages to do that directed evolution thing. Quick tangent, bacteriophages are kinda creepy but also may be our last defense against antibiotic resistance. Both discoveries have led to new compounds for use in “everything from renewable fuels to pharmaceuticals.”
Wait, that’s not right. True, but the Nobel Prize in Medicine was recently awarded to 3 American scientists for discoveries about the molecular mechanisms controlling the body’s circadian rhythm. How’d they do it? They used the same fruit flies you killed in a jar during your middle school science class. The scientists found a gene that encoded a protein (now called PER) that accumulated in cells at night, and then degraded during the day. They found all organisms, including humans, operate on 24-hour rhythms that control not only sleep and wakefulness but also physiology generally, including blood pressure and heart rate, alertness, body temperature and reaction time. FYI, in case you think you’re getting a Nobel Prize next year for the work you did this summer, think again. This research started in 1984.
Here’s your Sleepless in Seattle clip. *sniff, sniff*