We’re still on the ball, guys! Israeli scientist Ada Yonath has won the Nobel Prize in chemistry. She works at the Weizmann Institute in Rehovot, named after Israel’s first president Chaim Weizmann, who also happened to be a chemist.
She shared the prize together with two American Scientists Venkatraman Ramakrishnan and Thomas Steitz. Her work focused on how cells build proteins, which I’d imagine is pretty complicated. My cells make proteins all the time, but when it comes down to it, I really have no idea what they’re up to. I just know it has something to do with ribosomes and tRNA or something.
For a picture of what she found out, check out this computer model. And if you want to read the technical reports on her findingsâ€¦good luck trying to understand them.
Yonath is the first woman to win the Nobel Prize in Chemistry since 1964.
How’s the for potentially life-changing news: Radiation sickness may now be a thing of the past. Thanks to Jewish-American scientists working together with researchers and investors from Israel, researchers now believe they have isolated a certain intestinal protein that can be administered as an injection to protect people against acute radiation poisoning from 24 hours before exposure up until 72 hours afterward.
Andrei Gudkov, chief science officer at Cleveland Biolabs, pioneered the research and developed the medication, which has already passed trials on mice as well as primates, where controlled groups were given the medication and subjected to lethal doses of radiation. Almost all survived, and more amazingly, few showed any signs of radiation exposure at all. The amount of radiation administered was equal to the amount of the highest doses received from the Chernobyl nuclear disaster. FDA approval may even happen within a year or two if the bureaucracy allows some flow.
The implications of this are no less than enormous, both politically and medically. If the medication, which testing thus far has revealed has no serious side effects, gets approved, countries with access to it will have a major advantage in protection against nuclear attack and/or dirty bombs, which is especially significant in Israel’s case in its struggle with Iran.
On the medical front, there is of course the issue of radiation therapy for cancer patients, who could be better protected against the radiation that is administered to destroy cancerous tumors.
The Israeli connection here is Elena Feinstein, a longtime cancer researcher at the Weizmann Institute, who partnered with Gudkov on the project.
The medication works by suppressing the “suicide mechanism” activated by cells exposed to radiation, while at the same time enabling them to repair themselves from the damage.