Thomas Sudhof Wins Nobel Prize, "Are You Serious?"

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When the Nobel Prize press officer calls Dr. Thomas C. Südhof to inform him that he and his colleagues have won the Nobel Prize in Medicine, Südhof, who was, "driving in the middle of Spain somewhere," responds with great disbelief if not composure. "Are you serious?"

The announcement was made today by the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Sweden. The winners along with Südhof (Stanford University) are Dr. James E. Rothman (Yale University) and Dr. Randy W. Schekman (UC Berkeley). Their discovery warranting the prestigious award surrounds the mystery of how cells transport major molecules to the right place at the right time.

Each of the new laureates discovered different aspects of the cell transport systems. Schekman discovered those genes required for vesicle traffic. Rothman decoded protein components that permit vesicles to fuse with their targets and allow for transfer of major molecules. Südhof unveiled how signals instruct vesicles to release those molecules at the right time and place.

Schekman gave the committee an equally concise soundbite: "I danced around my wife and repeatedly said, 'oh my god, oh my god'."

Rothman, who was sleeping when he got the call, said of the experience, "The truth is that anyone, almost anyone, who receives the Nobel Prize, has some indirect knowledge of one sort or another that they may be a candidate. And so at some level it's not a complete surprise. But that it actually happens, it's an out-of-body experience."

Awards in Physics, Chemistry, Literature and Economic Sciences will be announced through 14 October. The most publicized of the prizes, the Nobel Peace Prize, will be announced Friday, 11 October. Nominees in the categories are kept confidential until the Award is announced.

[Image via Nobel Prize Website.]

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