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Chemistry Nobel for cell research

STOCKHOLM, OCT. 6. Israelis Aaron Ciechanover and Avram Hershko and American Irwin Rose won the 2004 Nobel Prize in chemistry on Tuesday for their work in discovering a process that lets cells destroy unwanted proteins.

Mr. Ciechanover (57), Mr. Hershko (67) — the first Israelis to win a science prize — and Mr. Rose (78), were honoured by the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences for their work in the 1980s that discovered one of the cell's most important cyclical processes, regulated protein degradation.

The marked proteins are then chopped to pieces. When such degradation fails to work correctly, the result can be diseases like cervical cancer and cystic fibrosis. So research in this area may lead to new drugs for those diseases and others, the Academy said.

A breakthrough

"Thanks to the work of the three laureates it is now possible to understand at molecular level how the cell controls a number of central processes by breaking down certain proteins and not others," the Academy said in its citation.

"Examples of processes governed by ubiquitin-mediated protein degradation are cell division, DNA repair, quality control of newly produced proteins, and important parts of the immune defence."

Mr. Ciechanover is director of the Rappaport Family Institute for Research in Medical Sciences at the Technion, in Haifa, Israel, while Mr. Hershko, originally from Hungary, is a professor there.

Mr. Rose is a specialist at the Department of Physiology and Biophysics at the college of medicine at the University of California-Irvine. All three will share the 10 million kronor ($1.3 millions) cash prize.

Overwhelmed and proud

In a conference call with the Academy after the prize was announced, Mr. Ciechanover said the process would help introduce new medicines that can fight cancer and other diseases.

He also said he was overwhelmed at winning the prize. "I'm happy that I can speak on the phone at all and that I remember my English," he said. "I am as proud for myself as I am for my country." The chemistry prize is the first Nobel science prize to be awarded to somebody from Israel — but not the first Nobel Prize. — AP

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