"The Nobel Prize in Medicine this year reflects the importance of basic research,” explains the head of the Microtubule Organisation Lab at IRB Barcelona Jens Lüders to Materia. The North American scientists James Rothman and Randy Schekman and the German Thomas Südhof have been awarded this recognition for solving the mystery of how the cell organises its transport system, according to the Nobel Prize organisers at the Karolinska Instutute in Sweden.
Lüders compares the discovery with an underground train network. “The awardees have discovered how each passenger enters a carriage, how the passengers are distributed, the distance travelled by each one, and the type of mechanism they use to open the door at the right stop and to get to their final destination,” he explains. The work performed by the award winners “shows how research in cell biology directly affects our understanding of diseases at the molecular level,” states Lüders.
Lüders works in a field close to that of the awardees, namely that of microtubules, which can be likened to the “motorways” that, for example, neurons use to transport neurotransmitters. One of the branches of his work is to explore the defects in these communication pathways. Such defects are associated with most neurodegenerative diseases, including Alzheimer disease.
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About IRB Barcelona
Created in 2005 by the Generalitat de Catalunya (Government of Catalonia) and University of Barcelona, IRB Barcelona is a Severo Ochoa Centre of Excellence, a seal that was awarded in 2011. The institute is devoted to conducting research of excellence in biomedicine and to transferring results to clinical practice, thus improving people’s quality of life, while simultaneously promoting the training of outstanding researchers, technology transfer, and public communication of science. Its 27 laboratories and eight core facilities address basic questions in biology and are orientated to diseases such as cancer, metastasis, Alzheimer’s, diabetes, and rare conditions. IRB Barcelona is an international centre that hosts 400 employees and more than 30 nationalities. It is located in the Barcelona Science Park. IRB Barcelona is a CERCA center, and a member of the Barcelona Institute of Science and Technology (BIST).