Nobel Prize for Chemistry 2008

The Nobel Prize for Chemistry 2008 was awarded to Osamu Shimomura (b. 1928) of the Marine Biological Laboratory (MBL), at Woods Hole, Massachusetts and Boston University Medical School, Martin Chalfie (b. 1947) of Columbia University, New York, and Roger Tsien (b. 1952) of the University of California, San Diego, La Jolla, “for the discovery (1962 by Shimomura) and development of the green fluorescent protein, GFP”. Important, of course, and congratulations to all three…but I just knew it would be bio again!

The Nobel org press release for the Chemistry Prize can be found here.

The remarkable brightly glowing green fluorescent protein, GFP, was first observed in the beautiful jellyfish, Aequorea victoria in 1962. Since then, this protein has become one of the most important tools used in contemporary bioscience. With the aid of GFP, researchers have developed ways to watch processes that were previously invisible, such as the development of nerve cells in the brain or how cancer cells spread. Of course, the things that the public know about GFP are the green-glowing mice and pigs that have hit the tabloid headlines over the years.

I’ve written about green fluorescent proteins (although not green flourescent proteins) on several occasions over the years. Briefly in an item on artificial cells in December 2004. In Reactive Reports in September 2005. In New Scientist (“Genetic Weeding and Feeding for Tobacco Plants”, Jan. 4, 1992, p. 11). In SpectroscopyNOW in January 2008. And, more substantially, in American Scientist (January 1996) on the use of a green-glowing jellyfish protein to create a night-time warning signal for crop farmers. Plants under stress would activate their GFP genes and start glowing, revealing which areas of which fields were affected by disease or pests and so tell the farmer where to spray. Of course, the idea of green-glowing cereals would have any tabloid headline writer spluttering into their cornflakes of a morning.

As I said earlier in the week, on the post for the Nobel Prize for Medicine 2008 and on the Nobel Prize for Physics announcement yesterday, the Nobel press team has employed various social media gizmos to disseminate the news faster than ever before, including SMS, RSS, widgets (see left), and twitter.

You can check back here later in the week and next week for the Literature, Economics, and Peace Prizes, the widget at the top left of this post will provide the details as soon as they are released. It’s almost as exciting as sniping your bids on eBay.

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