NEW YORK — Two Americans and a German-American won the Nobel Prize in medicine Monday for illuminating how tiny bubbles inside cells shuttle key substances around like a vast and highly efficient fleet of vans, delivering the right cargo to the right place at the right time.
Scientists believe the research could eventually lead to new medicines for epilepsy, diabetes and other metabolism deficiencies.
The work has already helped doctors diagnose a severe form of epilepsy and immune deficiency diseases in children. And it has helped guide research into the brain and many neurological diseases. It also opened the door for biotech companies to make yeast pump out large quantities of useful proteins such as insulin.
The $1.2 million prize will be shared by James Rothman, 62, of Yale University, Randy Schekman, 64, of the University of California at Berkeley, and Dr. Thomas Sudhof, 57, of Stanford University.
They unlocked the mysteries of the cell's internal transport system, which relies on bubble-like structures called vesicles to deliver substances the cell needs. The fleet of vesicles is sort of the FedEx of the cellular world.
The medicine prize kicked off this year's Nobel announcements. The awards in physics, chemistry, literature, peace and economics will be announced this week and next.