The Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine 2002

  The Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine 2002     
  The Implications of the Discoveries

Some diseases characterized by defective cell death (left) and excessive cell death (right).

The introduction of C. elegans as a novel experimental model system, the characterization of its invariant cell lineage, and the possibility to link this to genetic analysis have proven valuable for many research disciplines. For example, this is true for developmental biology and for analysis of the functions of signalling pathways in multicellular organisms.

Research on programmed cell death is intense. Knowledge in this field has helped us to understand the mechanisms by which some viruses and bacteria invade and manipulate our cells.

Some diseases, like cancer and certain autoimmune conditions, are characterized by a reduction in cell death, leading to the survival of cells normally destined to die. Many treatment strategies against cancer are based on stimulation of the cellular “suicide programme”. This is an interesting and challenging task to further explore in order to reach a refined manner to induce cell death in cancer cells.

We also know that in AIDS, neurodegenerative diseases, stroke and myocardial infarction, cells are lost as a result of excessive cell death. For instance, current research suggests that it is possible to reduce the damage caused by myocardial infarction and stroke by using drugs restraining programmed cell death.

Nobel Poster from the Nobel Committee for Physiology or Medicine, web adapted by Nobel Web

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