The 2019 Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine has recently been jointly awarded to three hypoxia researchers who discovered how the body responds to changes in oxygen levels. Pictured above (L-R) are Sir Peter Ratcliffe, Gregg Semenza and William Kaelin Jr, who established how cells sense falling oxygen levels and respond by making new blood cells and vessels.
In addition to explaining a fundamental physiological process which enables animals to thrive in some of the highest-altitude regions on Earth, the discovery has also lead to advancements in treating anaemia, cancer, heart disease and other conditions.
Dr Alex Greenhough from the University of the West of England works in cancer biology and said of the news:
“The work by Ratcliffe, Kaelin and Semenza has been crucial to our understanding of how cells sense and respond to changes in oxygen levels… their work is of huge significance to diseases that feature an impaired blood supply, which includes important solid tumours such as breast, colorectal and pancreatic cancers. Their outstanding work on the fundamental mechanisms of oxygen sensing will pave the way for future therapies that will be able to exploit the disease-specific nature of hypoxia for clinical benefit.” *
We add our congratulations to those offered by the wider scientific community in celebration of this historic achievement.
Photograph source: EPA