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Nobel Prizes Honor Science Authors, AAAS Members
The cover of the 20 May 1983 issue of Science
Four AAAS members this week won the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, Physics, and Chemistry, and some of the laureates published their pioneering research in Science.
AAAS members Luc Montagnier of the Pasteur Institute in Paris and Harald zur Hausen of Germany were named winners of the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine; Yoichiro Nambu of the University of Chicago was honored for his research in physics; and Martin Chalfie from Columbia University in New York won in chemistry.
The prizes in Physiology or Medicine are awarded by the Nobel Assembly, which consists of 50 professors at the Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm, Sweden. The prizes in Chemistry and Physics are awarded by the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences.
Montagnier and Pasteur Institute colleague Françoise Barré-Sinoussi, whose ground-breaking investigation of HIV appeared in the 20 May 1983 edition of Science were honored for isolating the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) that causes AIDS.
"A retrovirus belonging to the family of recently discovered human T-cell leukemia viruses (HTLV), but clearly distinct from each previous isolate, has been isolated from a Caucasian patient with signs and symptoms that often precede the acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS)," they reported in that landmark paper.
A year later, researchers directed by Robert C. Gallo, also a AAAS member who is now at the University of Maryland, began publishing a series of papers in Science that "persuasively tied similar viruses they had found to the disease," thus establishing HIV as the cause of AIDS," according to a ScienceNOW news report. Although the Nobel Assembly did not name Gallo to receive a prize this year, Montagnier has long acknowledged his former competitor's important contributions to the global fight against HIV.
Zur Hausen, a virologist, was recognized for discovering that the human papillomavirus (HPV) can cause cervical cancer, the second or third most deadly form of cancer among women. When zur Hausen first began working to solve the mystery of HPV, many researchers were focusing on the herpes virus as the most likely cause. Zur Hausen, "was able to demonstrate the presence of HPV-16 and -18—two of many different HPV types—in cervical cancer biopsies," ScienceNOW reporters Martin Enserink and Jon Cohen wrote this week.
"Viruses may contribute to the development of human tumors by different mechanisms," zur Hausen explained in a 22 November 1991 issue of Science. "Because experimental and epidemiologic data imply a causative role for viruses, particularly in cervical and liver cancer, viruses must be thought of as the second most important risk factor for cancer development in humans, exceeded only by tobacco consumption."
The Nobel Prize for Physics went to three researchers, including Nambu, who was recognized for describing a physical event called "spontaneous broken symmetry." Dennis Overbye of the New York Times explained in his report on the award that "some symmetries in the laws of nature might be hidden or 'broken' in actual practice." Reuters reporter Niklas Pollard explained further that spontaneous broken symmetry "helps underlie the Standard Model of physics, which unites three of the four fundamental forces of nature: strong, weak and electromagnetic, leaving out gravity."
Also honored for their physics breakthroughs were Makoto Kobayashi of Japan's High Energy Accelerator Research Organization and Toshihide Maskawa of Kyoto University for their investigations of sub-atomic particles.
The Nobel Prize in Chemistry was awarded to three scientists, including Chalfie, for their research on a protein that makes certain jellyfish glow in the dark.
In 1962, Osamu Shimomura, an emeritus professor at the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole, Mass., and Boston University Medical School, was able to isolate a specific protein from a jellyfish, Aequorea victoria, that appears green under sunlight, yellow under a light bulb, and florescent green under ultraviolet light.
Thirty-two years later, in 1994, Chalfie, a professor of biological sciences at Columbia, and a team of researchers reported in Science that they were able to insert the gene that controls the florescent protein into Caenorhabditis elegans worm. ScienceNOW reporter Robert Service wrote this week that this "set off an avalanche of interest in using [the protein] as a marker to investigate everything from how cells develop to what makes cancer cells metastasize."
Years later, researchers led by University of California, San Diego, biochemist Roger Y. Tsien, were able to mutate the protein and develop a palette of florescent colors, allowing scientists to track multiple genes and different processes inside of cells.
10 October 2008