Tag Archives: NobelPrize2014

Chemistry is the one who knocks.

The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences has announced that the 2014 Nobel Prize for Chemistry goes to Eric Betzig, Stefan W. Hell and William E. Moerner “for the development of super-resolved fluorescence microscopy”. A couple of considerations have to be made on this. In the last decade, out of 11 Nobel Prizes for Chemistry assigned, 6 has been awarded to scientists that made biologically- relevant contributions. Their work ranges from the discover and optimization of the Green Fluorescent Protein, the functioning of ribosomes, up to the principles of eukaryotic transcription and the discover of ubiquitine. By inventing new methods and unravelling fundamental Biology processes, chemists out there are giving an impressive and growing contribution to Life Sciences.

Differently from Biology, Chemistry is very sharply parted into sub- disciplines. Organic, Physical, Analytical, Inorganic, Pharmaceutical and Theoretical Chemistry are the most common definitions you’ll get to find in faculties. The terms Biological Chemistry and Biochemistry are used to define that branch of Chemistry aimed at the study of chemical processes within and relating to living organisms. Given the several contributions coming from the other branches of Chemistry, we should reconsider the outlines of Biochemistry, that is not just Organic Chemistry applied to biology as classically stated. Physical chemistry is providing very interesting methodological solutions for biotechnology, such as the development of nanotechnology and its application to drug delivery and gene silencing. As detecting methods improvement is domain of analytical chemistry, Theoretical Chemistry is fundamental for Structural Biology and Protein Bioinformatics, whereas also Physical Chemistry is deeply contributing with the application of kinetics and thermodynamics. Anyways, the most of the work is still made by Organic Chemistry, in matter of analysis of macromolecules and metabolism. Thus, there is a growing intake of chemical knowledge in Life Sciences.

Biology already enjoyed the immigration from other disciplines. We have genetics thanks to Mendel, that was a statistician, and anyone knows the work of Lotka and Volterra in modeling the prey- predator dynamics. Right after the IIWW, many physicists moved to biology, causing the birth of Molecular Biology, and I don’t really need to mention the overcome of computer scientists during the 90s. Chemists always had a role in biology, but the recent avalanche of biologically- relevant projects in chemical research, and the new horizons opened by nanotechnologies and structural biology, are relevant enough to recognize the fourth “migratory event” in biological sciences, and we need to get use to see even more chemists in our labs.

If the future is personalized medicine, biofuels, protein dynamics and structural genomics, we have to expect that chemistry will grow in relevance for life sciences.

Nobel Prize 2014 for positioning system in the brain.

Just a few minutes ago, the Karolinska Institutet announced that the 2014 Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine has been awarded to John O’Keefe of the University College of London, May-Britt Moser and Edvard I. Moser, of the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, “for their discoveries of cells that constitute a positioning system in the brain”.

The researchers’ work may lead to new treatments for several neurological disorders that affect the brain’s spatial capabilities, such as Alzheimer. “How the brain records and recalls its trajectory through space is fundamental to understanding spatial memory,” as the Nobel laureate Eric R. Kandel, MD pointed out one year ago when the three scholars have been awarded of the Horwitz prize, that is confirmed in its role of “precursor of the Nobel”.

The official press release is available here.