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Trio wins chemistry Nobel for protein breakthrough

Latest update : 2008-10-08

Americans Martin Chalfie and Roger Tsien and Japanese citizen Osamu Shimomura on Wednesday won the Nobel Chemistry Prize for the discovery of a fluorescent protein derived from a jellyfish that has become a vital tool in research.

Stockholm - Two Americans and a Japanese researcher won the 2008 Nobel prize for chemistry on Wednesday for the discovery of a glowing protein in jellyfish that helps scientists spot the onset of maladies such as cancer and Alzheimer's disease.

The prestigious 10 million Swedish crown ($1.4 million) prize recognised Osamu Shimomura of Japan and Americans Martin Chalfie and Roger Tsien for their discovery of the protein GFP.

"The remarkable brightly glowing green fluorescent protein, GFP, was first observed in the beautiful jellyfish, Aequorea victoria in 1962," the Nobel Committee for Chemistry at the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences said in a statement.

"Since then, this protein has become one of the most important tools used in contemporary bioscience. With the aid of GFP, researchers have developed ways to watch processes that were previously invisible, such as the development of nerve cells in the brain or how cancer cells spread."

Shimomura first isolated GFP from jellyfish drifting off the west coast of North America and discovered that the protein glowed bright green under ultraviolet light.

Chalfie picked up on the discovery to demonstrate the value of GFP as a luminous genetic tag for biological phenomena and Tsien extended the colour palette beyond green which allowed researchers to follow several different biological processes at the same time.

The strong green colour of the jellyfish protein appears under blue and ultraviolet light, allowing researchers to illuminate growing cancer tumours, show the development of Alzheimer's disease in the brain or the growth of harmful bacteria.

All but one of the prizes were established in the will of 19th century dynamite tycoon Alfred Nobel and have been handed out since 1901. The economics award was established by Sweden's central bank in 1968.

Date created : 2008-10-08

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