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The three scientists who shared this year’s Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine all made discoveries that illuminate how the body’s cells communicate. The research has sweeping implications for our understanding of how nerves in the brain transmit signals, how the immune system attacks pathogens and how hormones, like insulin, get into the bloodstream. Bioengineers have already harnessed the discoveries to manufacture new vaccines and improve the quality of insulin for diabetics.
How does insulin get into the blood? The hormone (dark blue) is carried to the cell surface in a bubble-like compartment, called a vesicle. When the vesicle binds with the cell membrane, it pops open and releases the insulin. The winners include two Americans — James Rothman of Yale University and Randy Schekman of the University of California, Berkeley — and the German-born Thomas Suedhof of Stanford University. Both Schekman and Suedhof are also investigators at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. Read More…
Pretty wild, right? It’s a map of Pangea — a supercontinent that formed roughly 300 million years ago — mapped with contemporary geopolitical borders. What you see here is an anachronistic mashup — a modern map, complete with geological features that did not exist 300-million years ago, with its various parts relocated to the general position they would have occupied before Pangea began rifting apart some 200-million years ago. It’s a view of the supercontinent not often seen, and a mind-bending way of relating to the world on a geological time scale. See More….
“[Stem cells] are our bodies’ own repair kits. They are pluripotent, which means they can morph into all of the cells in our bodies,” says Solomon. “Right now there are some really extraordinary things that we are doing with stem cells that are completely changing the way we model disease, our ability to understand why we get sick and even develop drugs. But … this field has been under siege, politically and financially.” Read more….