The 2013 Nobel Prize in Medicine was co-awarded to three scientists on Monday, including the German-born neuroscientist Thomas C. Südhof, for their work on discovering how certain materials are transported between cells. Südhof, along with his co-awardees James Rothman and Randy Shekman, have been working on these findings since in the 1970’s, and are now being credited with significantly advancing the study and understanding of cellular biology.
While the intricate details of their findings are better left being explained by experts in the field, Nobel committee secretary Goran Hansson summed it up as simple as possible by saying: “Imagine hundreds of thousands of people who are traveling around hundreds of miles of streets; how are they going to find the right way? Where will the bus stop and open its doors so that people can get out?”
There is a significant importance in understanding how materials move from one cell to the other, and with the findings made by these three scientists, researchers are on their way to better understanding common diseases such as diabetes, autism, and Alzheimer’s.
Thomas C. Südhof moved to the United States from Germany in 1983 to continue his education and has stayed Stateside to work on his research. In an interview he stated, “My major interest is in trying to understand how neurons in the brain communicate – how these processes get established during development, and how they become impaired in autism and schizophrenia.” Südhof and the other two awardees have worked with each other off and on over the years, bringing their individual findings to the table. According to Südhof, during these periodic meetings, the three scientists “argued and sometimes agreed and sometimes disagreed.”
For a more complete breakdown on their work, we recommend reading the official announcement made by the Nobel Assembly. We’ve included the link among the sources.