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2 Americans, Japanese win Chemistry Nobel Prize

Osamu Shimomura
Osamu Shimomura

Roger Tsien
Roger Tsien

Martin Chalfie
Martin Chalfie

Stockholm, October 8
Two Americans and a Japanese researcher won the 2008 Nobel Prize in Chemistry today for the discovery of a glowing jellyfish protein that makes cells, tissues and even organs light up - a tool used by thousands of researchers around the world.

The 10 million Swedish crown ($1.4 million) prize recognises Japanese-born Osamu Shimomura of the Woods Hole Marine Biological Laboratory in Massachusetts, Martin Chalfie of Columbia University in New York and Roger Tsien of the University of California, San Diego, for their discoveries with green fluorescent protein.

“The remarkable brightly glowing green fluorescent protein, GFP, was first observed in the beautiful jellyfish, Aequorea victoria in 1962,” the Nobel Committee for Chemistry at the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences said in a statement.

''Since then, this protein has become one of the most important tools used in contemporary bioscience.'' Shimomura first isolated GFP from jellyfish drifting off the western coast of North America and discovered that it glowed bright green under ultraviolet light. For 20 years from 1967, he made a summer pilgrimage to Friday Harbor in Washington state to gather more than 3,000 jellyfish per day.

Chalfie and colleagues got bacteria such as Ecoli and tiny worms called C elegans to produce the protein by splicing in the right gene. Tsien, a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator, used coral proteins and extended the palette beyond green to yellow, blue and other colors, allowing scientists to follow several different biological processes at the same time.

Tsien said he was grateful for the prize and acknowledged that others in the field could also have been included. “I know only three people could get it and I'm sure the committee had a difficult decision,” he said.

Chalfie said he missed the first call from the Nobel committee: “I looked on the computer, my laptop, and I found that I had won the prize. I slept through the phone call.” The laureate for literature will be unveiled on Thursday. — Reuters



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