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Medicine Nobel honors work on cellular system to sense oxygen levels

Kay Nietfeld/picture-alliance/dpa/AP Images

The 2019 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine has been awarded to three scientists for their research into how cells detect oxygen and react to hypoxia—conditions when oxygen is low in tissues. The fundamental physiology work has led a better understanding of how more than 300 hundred genes in the body are regulated, including the one for the hormone erythropoietin (EPO), which regulates production of blood cells.

Oxygen sensing is integral to many diseases and numerous drugs are being developed to alter the response of this system to treat everything from cancer to anemia. “Applications of these findings are already beginning to affect how medicine is practiced,” Randall Johnson of Karolinska Institute, who is on the Nobel prize selection committee, told al press conference announcing the prize in Stockholm. “This is a basic aspect of how cells works.”

The three winners are William G. Kaelin Jr at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Peter J. Ratcliffe of the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom and Gregg L. Semenza of Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore. The Nobel committee praised the trio for “for their discoveries of how cells sense and adapt to oxygen availability.”

A 2004 feature in Science covered much of the history of their work.

This is a developing story.

Source: Science Mag