Monday, October 7, 2013

Nobel prize-winners Sudhof and Schekman involved in CIRM-funded stem cell training and research

This morning the Nobel Prize in Physiology and Medicine went to Thomas Sudhof from Stanford University, Randy Schekman from UC Berkeley and James Rothman from Yale University. Together, the group worked out how cells transport cellular cargo in packages called vesicles. The Nobel Prize committee described their accomplishments like this:
Randy Schekman discovered a set of genes that were required for vesicle traffic. James Rothman unravelled protein machinery that allows vesicles to fuse with their targets to permit transfer of cargo. Thomas Südhof revealed how signals instruct vesicles to release their cargo with precision.

Through their discoveries, Rothman, Schekman and Südhof have revealed the exquisitely precise control system for the transport and delivery of cellular cargo. Disturbances in this system have deleterious effects and contribute to conditions such as neurological diseases, diabetes, and immunological disorders.
We are happy to say that two of these great scientists also have a hand in research funded by the stem cell agency.

Randy Schekman established the stem cell training program at UC Berkeley, which supports graduate and post-doctoral students working in stem cell labs. These training grants in 2006 were the first round of funding for the agency, with the idea that the most critical need for the future of stem cell therapies in California was training young people to carry out the research. Apparently, Dr. Shekman agreed. So far, students involved in the program have published more than 60 papers describing their research advances.

Thomas Sudhoff is a collaborator on a Tools and Technologies Award to Marius Wernig. Sudhoff’s previous work involved sussing out how nerves form connections in the brain, and how they communicate with each other via packets of molecules called neurotransmitters. In a conversation with Krista Conger at Stanford University very early this morning (the prizes are announced at around 2:30am local time), Sudhoff said:
"The brain works by neurons communicating via synapses. We'd like to understand how synapse communication leads to learning on a larger scale. How are the specific connections established? How do they form? And what happens in schizophrenia and autism when these connections are compromised?"
In the collaboration with Wernig, the group intends to study defects in the normal signaling between neurons in people with autism, schizophrenia, depression and other diseases. Starting with stem cells developed from people with those diseases, they’ll be able to study the defects in cellular communication and then try to find ways of fixing those defects.

Congratulations to all of these scientists for their impressive accomplishments.

Amy Adams

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