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Bread, beer and botox: the science behind the 2013 Nobel Prize for medicine

By Jenny Martin

The 2013 Nobel Prize for Medicine was awarded "discoveries of machinery regulating vesicle traffic". What does this mean and why is it important?

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What do bread, beer and botox have in common with this year’s Nobel Prize in Physiology and Medicine? More than you might think. But more on that in a minute.

The 2013 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine was awarded jointly to James Rothman, Randy Schekman, and Thomas Südhof “for their discoveries of machinery regulating vesicle traffic, a major transport system in our cells.”

Long before humans organised information superhighways, developed road, rail and air networks, or established postal delivery systems, simple yeast cells had already crafted their own complex networks for delivering cargo. The cellular network embraces all the principles of an intricately designed trafficking system including careful packaging, cargo quality control, and delivery of cargo to the right address at the right time.

Randy Schekman performed his seminal work in this field in the 1970s and 1980s. He discovered the genes responsible for cargo delivery in a strain of yeast, Saccharomyces cerevisiae. This organism, also known as baker’s yeast or brewer’s yeast (used to make bread and beer) is the workhorse of genetics labs, a fundamentally important tool for physiological discovery.

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The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.