Photo from the Nobel Foundation archive.
The Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine 1991
Born: 12 June 1942, Stuttgart, Germany
Affiliation at the time of the award: Max-Planck-Institut für medizinische Forschung, Heidelberg, Federal Republic of Germany
Prize motivation: "for their discoveries concerning the function of single ion channels in cells."
Prize share: 1/2
One of the fundamental processes of life is the transit of charged atoms - ions - through the surface layer of cells that make up organisms. Among other things, this transit is of crucial importance for the transfer of signals in nerves and muscles so that the body functions. Around 1980 Bert Sakmann and Erwin Neher developed a method for measuring the extremely weak currents involved in ion transits. These results confirmed that the transit occurs through ion channels - molecules on the surface of cells that under certain conditions allow ions to pass through.
Their work and discoveries range from cancer therapy and laser physics to developing proteins that can solve humankind’s chemical problems. The work of the 2018 Nobel Laureates also included combating war crimes, as well as integrating innovation and climate with economic growth. Find out more.