Biologists who decoded how cells sense oxygen win medicine Nobel

William Kaelin, Gregg Semenza and Peter Ratcliffe have won the Nobel Prize 2019 in medicine or physiology for their findings on how cells, the building blocks of life, sense oxygen levels and their response mechanism to inadequate supply of oxygen (a condition known as hypoxia).

Unknown till the late 1980s and 1990s, this understanding is the key to develop strategies to fight many diseases such as anaemia, cardiovascular disease, pulmonary hypertension, and cancer.

Kaelin and Semenza are from the US and Ratcliffe from the UK.

The award, announced by the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm (Sweden) on Monday, is the 110th prize in the category that has been awarded since 1901.

“They established the basis for our understanding of how oxygen levels affect cellular metabolism and physiological function,” the jury said in a statement.

“Intense ongoing efforts in academic laboratories and pharmaceutical companies are now focused on developing drugs that can interfere with different disease states by either activating, or blocking, the oxygen-sensing machinery,” it added.

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