8 Oct 2009

Nobel Prize for chemistry of ribosome

9:03 am on 8 October 2009

Three scientists from the United States and Israel have won this year's Nobel chemistry prize for their work on the cells of living organisms.

The Nobel prize committee says the work of Venkatraman Ramakrishnan, Thomas Steitz and Ada Yonath has important implications for the development of new antibiotics.

The prize has been awarded for the study of the structure and function of the ribosome, which translates genetic code into proteins.

It is also the main target of new antibiotics, which combat bacterial strains that have developed resistance to traditional antibiotic drugs, the BBC reports.

These new drugs work by blocking the function of ribosomes in bacterial cells, preventing them from making the proteins they need to survive.

Their design has been made possible by research into the structure of the ribosome, because it has revealed key differences between bacterial and human ribosomes. Structures that are unique to bacteria can be targeted by drugs.

The announcement was made during a press conference at the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, during which the three winners were described as "warriors in the struggle of the rising tide of incurable bacterial infections".

Professor Ramakrishnan is based at the Medical Research Council's Molecular Biology Laboratories in Cambridge, UK.

Thomas Steitz is based at Yale University in the US, and Ada Yonath is from the Weizmann Institute in Rehovot, Israel.