Science & Technology – NOBEL


KEYWORDS

S&T – NOBEL

Sr. No.

Topic

1.

Nobel Medicine Prize for research in body’s natural defences against cancer

2.

Laser pioneers win Physics Nobel

3.

Scientists ‘sew’ with just sound waves

4.

Chemistry Nobel for harnessing evolution to produce novel proteins

OCTOBER 2018

Nobel Medicine Prize for research into body’s natural defences against cancer

  • Two immunologists, James Allison of the U.S. and Tasuku Honjo of Japan, won the 2018 Nobel Medicine Prize for research into how the body’s natural defences can fight cancer.

  • Unlike more traditional forms of cancer treatment that directly target cancer cells, Dr. Allison and Dr. Honjo figured out how to help the patient’s own immune system tackle the cancer more quickly.

  • The award-winning discovery led to treatments targeting proteins made by some immune system cells that act as a “brake” on the body’s natural defences killing cancer cells.

  • The therapy “has now revolutionised cancer treatment and has fundamentally changed the way we view how cancer can be managed”.

  • In 1995, Dr. Allison was one of two scientists to identify the CTLA-4 molecule as an inhibitory receptor on T-cells.

  • T-cells are a type of white blood cell that play a central role in the body’s natural immunity to disease.

  • Allison, 70, “realised the potential of releasing the brake and thereby unleashing our immune cells to attack tumours,” the Nobel jury said.

  • Around the same time, Dr. Honjo discovered a protein on immune cells, the ligand PD-1, and eventually realised that it also worked as a brake, but acted in a different way.

  • There are cancer patients who’ve been successfully treated with immune checkpoint blockade.

  • The duo will share the Nobel prize sum of nine million Swedish kronor (about $1.01 million).

Laser pioneers win Physics Nobel

  • Three scientists won the Nobel Physics Prize, including the first woman to receive the prestigious award in 55 years, for inventing optical lasers that have paved the way for advanced precision instruments used in corrective eye surgery.

  • Arthur Ashkin of the U.S. won one half of the nine million Swedish kronor (about $1.01 million) prize, while Gerard Mourou of France and Donna Strickland of Canada shared the other half.

  • Ashkin, 96, was honoured for his invention of “optical tweezers” that grab particles, atoms, viruses and other living cells with their laser beam fingers.

  • With this he was able to use the radiation pressure of light to move physical objects, “an old dream of science fiction,” the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences said.

  • A major breakthrough came in 1987 when Mr. Ashkin used the tweezers to capture living bacteria without harming them, the Academy noted.

  • Ashkin, who made his discovery while working at AT&T Bell Laboratories from 1952 to 1991, is the oldest winner of a Nobel prize, beating out American Leonid Hurwicz who was 90 when he won the 2007 Economics Prize.

  • Meanwhile Mourou, 74, and Ms. Strickland ,59, — only the third woman to win the Physics Prize — won for helping develop a method to generate ultra-short optical pulses, “the shortest and most intense laser pulses ever created by mankind,” the jury said.

  • Their technique is now used in corrective eye surgery.

  • Mourou was affiliated with the Ecole Polytechnique of France and the University of Michigan in the U.S., while Ms. Strickland, his student, is a professor at the University of Waterloo in Canada.

  • Mourou was also involved in building the Extreme Light Infrastructure (ELI) project and what is believed to be one of the world’s most powerful lasers, the Apollon, in developments that researchers hope will one day help deal with nuclear waste, treating tumours and clearing debris in space.


Scientists ‘sew’ with just sound waves

  • Scientists have successfully used sound waves to levitate and manipulate multiple objects simultaneously for the first time, using the system to “sew” a thread into a piece of fabric.

  • The system could be use to acoustically stitch up internal injuries or deliver drugs to target organs.

  • Sound exerts a small acoustic force and by turning up the volume of ultrasonic waves, too high pitched for humans to hear, scientists create a sound field strong enough to move small objects.

  • Scientists from University of Bristol in the U.K. and Universidad Publica De Navarra in Spain attached two millimetric polystyrene spheres to a piece of thread and used the acoustic tweezers to “sew” the thread into a piece of fabric. The system can also simultaneously control the 3D movement of up to 25 of these spheres in air.

  • Acoustic tweezers have similar capabilities to optical tweezers, the 2018 Nobel prize winner, which uses lasers to trap and transport micro-particles.

  • However, acoustic tweezers have the edge over optical systems when it comes to operating within human tissue.

  • Lasers only travel through transparent media, making them tricky to use for applications within biological tissue.

  • On the other hand, ultrasound is routinely used in pregnancy scans and kidney stone treatment as it can safely and non-invasively penetrate biological tissue.

  • Another advantage is that acoustic devices are 1,00,000 times more power efficient than optical systems.

Trio gets Chemistry Nobel for harnessing evolution to produce novel proteins

  • Two Americans and a Briton won the 2018 Nobel Prize for Chemistry for harnessing the power of evolution to produce novel proteins used in everything from environmentally friendly detergents and biofuels to cancer drugs.

  • Frances Arnold of the California Institute of Technology, George Smith from the University of Missouri and Gregory Winter of Britain’s MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology were awarded the prize for pioneering science in enzymes and antibodies.

  • The fruits of this work include the world’s top-selling prescription medicine — the antibody injection Humira for treating rheumatoid arthritis and other autoimmune diseases.

  • Arnold, only the fifth woman to win a chemistry Nobel, was awarded half of the $1 million prize while Mr. Smith and Mr. Winter shared the other half.

  • Arnold is the second woman to win a Nobel prize this year after Canada’s Donna Strickland.

  • Her research on enzymes led to the development of better industrial chemicals and pharmaceuticals.

  • Smith developed a method using a virus that infects bacteria to produce new proteins while Ms. Winter used the same technique for the directed evolution of antibodies.

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