11 Oct 2012

Cell receptor researchers win chemistry Nobel

10:20 am on 11 October 2012

Two American scientists have won the 2012 Nobel Prize for chemistry for research into how cells respond to external stimuli.

Robert Lefkowitz, 69, and Brian Kobilka, 57, discovered the inner workings of G-protein-coupled receptors, which allow cells to respond to chemical messages such as adrenaline rushes.

The work is helping to develop better drugs to fight diseases such as diabetes, cancer and depression.

The Nobel Prize committee said about half of all medications act through the receptors, among them beta blockers, antihistamines and various kinds of psychiatric medications.

Working out better ways to target the receptors, known as GPCRs, is an area of keen interest to pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies.

Kobilka said he was being recognised primarily for his work in determining the structure of the receptors and what they look like in three dimensions.

"Probably the most high profile piece of work was published last year, where we have a crystal structure of the receptor activating the G protein. It's caught in the act of signalling across the membrane," he said.

Sven Lidin, Professor of Inorganic Chemistry at Lund University and chairman of the committee, said the discovery provides the tools to make better drugs with fewer side effects.

Drugs targeting GPCRs have potential in treating illnesses involving the central nervous system, heart conditions, inflammation and metabolic disorders, Reuters reports.