Robert J. Lefkowitz M.D., a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator who has spent his entire 39-year research career at the Duke University Medical Center, is sharing the 2012 Nobel Prize in Chemistry with Brian K. Kobilka, M.D., of Stanford University School of Medicine, who was a post-doctoral fellow in Dr. Lefkowitz’s lab in the 1980s. The Nobel announcement of the prize was made on October 10, 2012. The two scientists are being recognized for their work on a class of cell surface receptors that have become the target of prescription drugs, including antihistamines, ulcer drugs, and beta blockers to relieve hypertension, angina, and coronary disease. The receptors receive chemical signals from the outside and transmit their messages into the cell, providing the cell with information about changes occurring within the body. These particular receptors are called seven-transmembrane G protein-coupled receptors, or just "G-coupled receptors" for short. Serpentine in appearance, G-coupled receptors weave through the surface of the cell seven times. The human genome contains code to make at least 1,000 different forms of these trans-membrane receptors, all of which are quite similar. The receptors also bear a strong resemblance to receptors that detect light in the eyes, smells in the nose, and taste on the tongue. "Bob's seminal discoveries related to G-protein coupled receptors ultimately became the basis for a great many medications that are in use today across many disease areas," said Victor J. Dzau, M.D., Chancellor for Health Affairs and CEO, Duke University Health System. "He is an outstanding example of a physician-scientist whose impact can be seen in the lives of the countless patients who have benefited from his scientific discoveries.
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