October 25, 2012

How Will The Nobel Prize in Chemistry Touch You?

Two American scientists are the recipients of the 2012 Nobel Prize in chemistry for their work in identifying the cell and DNA structure in the human body that allows cells to react to external stimuli.

The science behind their discoveries is fascinating: sensors on each sell’s surface, called receptors, transmit information about external stimuli through the cell wall, triggering a chain reaction inside the cell that changes the way the cell behaves.   About half of today’s pharmaceuticals are effective due to their manipulation of this chain reaction inside cells.

 

So, how does having more information about how these receptors work affect the average person?

The biggest benefit to pharmaceutical researchers is knowledge that will guide them in more directed research. A good portion of pharmaceutical research is trial and error. The scientists involved don’t often know why a certain drug affects the human body a certain way, they just know that it does. Informed research is bound to be more focused and effective, so this discovery may lead to an increase in the number of new drugs brought to market in a shorter time.

With a better understanding of this bio-human technology, scientists would be in a better position to find chemicals to directly affect specific body systems. An interesting hypothetical application could be engineered improvements in sensory perception – finding and delivering chemicals that could magnify hearing or visual acuity.

Is there any downside to having knowledge on how to manipulate human cell behavior?  Some may argue that the technology could be used for harm in the wrong hands.

For more information on this technology, click here.