Israeli Nobel Laureate receives AvH's Humboldt Research Award

Host institution is the Max Delbruck Center

The Israeli Nobel Laureate Aaron Ciechanover has been named one of the recipients of the Humboldt Research Award of the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation (AvH). His host institution in Germany shall be the Max Delbr-ck Center for Molecular Medicine (MDC) Berlin-Buch, a member of the Helmholtz Association. Professor Ciechanover is a physician and biologist and conducts research at the Faculty of Medicine of the Technion - Israel Institute of Technology in Haifa. The Humboldt Research Award is awarded by the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation in Germany to internationally renowned scientists and scholars in recognition of their entire achievements to date, and whose fundamental discoveries, theories, or insights have had a significant impact on their discipline. The award is valued at 60,000 euros.

At the MDC Professor Ciechanover will cooperate in particular with the research group led by Professor Thomas Sommer. There he will work in joint projects on the disposal of misfolded proteins. This cooperation will enable the MDC to intensify its contacts with Israeli scientists and in particular with the Technion.

Professor Ciechanover is one of the discoverers of the ubiquitin-proteasome system for regulated protein degradation. One of the main functions of the system is waste disposal. In 2004 he shared the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for this discovery with Avram Hershko and Irwin Rose. This quality control maintenance system selectively disposes misfolded/denatured/inactive proteins that, if accumulated, can cause cellular damage. Thus, only proteins that are marked with ubiquitin are recognized and enter the proteasome, the molecular shredder of the cell. There they are chopped into pieces and degraded. Ubiquitin, as the name (ubiquitous) implies, is present in all eukaryotic (nucleated) cells.

Aberrations in this cellular waste disposal machinery can lead to a wide array of diseases, ranging from cancer to neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease, genetic diseases such as cystic fibrosis, and disorders of the immune system. The research on the ubiquitin-proteasome system and the identification of the components involved in the degradation of key proteins has already led to the development of a new cancer drug. Aaron Ciechanover is convinced that this research will lead to the development of many additional drugs that will selectively target only proteins that are involved in a specific disease process.

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