Ribosomes already showing medical importance
Oct 7, 2009 - 8:05:54 PM

Indian-born scientist Venkatraman Ramakrishnan, awarded the Nobel Prize for Chemistry for his work on ribosomes, Wednesday said his work has established the ribosome's 'medical importance', while researchers said his findings could help in the global fight against tuberculosis.

Praising the Medical Research Council's Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge and the University of Utah for supporting his work, Ramakrishnan said, 'The idea of supporting long term basic research like that at LMB does lead to breakthroughs; the ribosome is already starting to show its medical importance.'

Tamil Nadu-born Ramakrishnan, now a US citizen, won the Nobel along with American scientist Thomas A. Steitz and Israeli Ada E. Yonath for studies of the structure and function of the ribosome, an element which translates information contained in the DNA code into life.

The MRC said Ramakrishnan's research could lead to the development of better drugs to fight against extreme forms of tuberculosis - a disease that kills nearly 1.8 million people every year.

The MRC said Ramakrishnan's basic research on the arrangement of atoms in the ribosome could help researchers to design antibiotics to treat people who are infected with a bacterium that has developed antibiotic resistance, for example some of the strains of bacteria that cause tuberculosis.

'Better targeting of the bacterial ribosome should also help to avoid negative effects on human cells thereby reducing the side effects of taking antibiotics,' the MRC said in a statement.

Ramakrishnan added: 'I have to say that I am deeply indebted to all of the brilliant associates, students and post docs who worked in my lab as science is a highly collaborative enterprise.'

MRC chief executive Sir Leszek Borysiewicz said he was 'delighted' that Ramakrishnan had won the Nobel Prize. 'The MRC is committed to long-term support of the difficult areas of basic science as exemplified by Venki's success. It is only on the back of such discoveries that we can continue to drive translation into benefits for human health.'

According to the World Health Organisation, tuberculosis is spreading at the rate of one new infection every second. In 2007, there were 9.27 million new cases - 500,000 of them resistant to drugs and 50,000 'extensively drug resistant'.

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