“2013’s Nobel Prize Winners” — Podcast 11: James Rothman, Randy Schekman & Thomas Südhof

Ben is joined by all three of 2013’s Nobel Prize winners in the Physiology/Medicine category — James Rothman, Randy Schekman and Thomas Südhof!

All three of these guys contributed crucial pieces to a longstanding puzzle: How, exactly, do our brain cells communicate with each other? Biologists had known since the 1960s that nerve cells pass chemical messages to one another inside hollow little globs of proteins called synaptic vesicles — and yet, as recently as the early 90s, no one had figured out much of anything about how this process worked.

Meanwhile, as James Rothman and Randy Schekman plugged away on their own seemingly unrelated projects — cell metabolism and yeast genetics — they were both starting to notice something intriguing: The chemical reactions they were studying looked like suspiciously good candidates for certain stages of the brain’s vesicle transmission process. And sure enough, before long, a young researcher named Thomas Südhof started to discover many of those very same chemicals in brain cells…

Click the “Play” button below, and they’ll tell you how their journey to a Nobel prize unfolded from there. And for more info on these guys and their research, check out my article in Scientific American: “The Search for a Nobel Prize-Winning Synapse Machine.”

Enjoy, and feel free to email us questions and suggestions for next time!

(Produced by Devin O’Neill, with lots of help from Tim Udall)

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