A Prize for proliferation

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All living organisms on this planet are descended by an unbroken series of divisions to an ancestral cell that came into being over a billion years ago. The discovery that we are all made of cells Schleiden 1838 and Schwann 1839, which proliferate by growth and division (Remak, 1850), was possibly the most important biological discovery of the 19th century. It provided an (albeit incomplete) intellectual framework for Darwin's theory of evolution and it has been the basis for all subsequent studies in cell and developmental biology. Understanding how cells control cell division is crucial if we are ever to understand embryological development or why tumor cells divide in an unregulated fashion and do so in a manner that fails to preserve genomic integrity. By awarding this year's Nobel prize for Medicine and Physiology to Lee Hartwell, Paul Nurse, and Tim Hunt, the codiscoverers of a group of protein kinases known as cyclin-dependent kinases (Cdks), the Nobel committee has rightly acknowledged the extraordinary progress made in the past fifteen years in understanding how events of the cell division cycle are ordered and the key part played by the discovery of Cdks. One of the more refreshing aspects of Nobel prizes is that they highlight how very different ways of doing science can lead to ground-breaking discoveries. While some are given to those who single-mindedly pursue particular ideas initially thought to be crazy, this prize is a testament to the value of having an open mind and a healthy dose of serendipity.




Nasmyth, K. (2001, December 14). A Prize for proliferation. Cell. Cell Press. https://doi.org/10.1016/S0092-8674(01)00604-3

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