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Nobel Laureates

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For further MBL News and Media Information, contact the MBL Communications Office at (508) 289-7423 or e-mail us at comm@mbl.edu .

Recipient of 2004 Nobel Prize in Chemistry to Deliver Special Lecture at the MBL

WOODS HOLE—Avram Hershko, Ph.D., recipient of the 2004 Nobel Prize in Chemistry and a summer researcher at the Marine Biological Laboratory (MBL) will offer this year's Gail and Elkan Blout Lectureship.  The special lecture will be held on Tuesday, July 12 at 4:00 pm in the Lillie Auditorium, MBL Street, Woods Hole. The lecture, titled "The ubiquitin system for protein degradation and its roles in the control of cell division," is free and open to the public.

Ubiquitin is a protein found within cells that targets other proteins for elimination.  Scientists have long known that all cells manufacture and subsequently discard an array of proteins involved in a variety of cellular processes.  Although many scientists over the years have focused their research on learning more about how cells make proteins, until recently few have explored how cells go about discarding proteins, and the impact that process has on disease.

More than twenty-five years ago, Hershko, a professor of biochemistry at the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology in Haifa, Israel, began studying how cells rid themselves of unwanted or damaged proteins.  With the help of his colleagues, Hershko discovered the ubiquitin system and eventually determined that it impacts major physiological processes in the body.  Scientists now know that it is involved in regulating cell division, aids in controlling embryonic development, and helps maintain the immune system.  It is implicated in a number of diseases as well, including cervical cancer caused by the human papilloma virus.  Because it is involved in the body's inflammatory response to invading microbes, it may also play a role in autoimmune diseases.

Hershko has been a summer investigator at the Marine Biological Laboratory since 1991.  He was drawn to the MBL when he became interested in learning more about the role that ubiquitin plays in the cell division cycle.  Today Hershko is studying that ubiquitin ligating complex in both clam eggs and cultured human cells in hopes of learning even more about cell division in general and cancer more specifically.  At the MBL, Hershko is also leading an effort to sequence some of the surf clam's active genes.  The effort called the Clam Mini-Genome Project, is the first step toward sequencing the entire clam genome, and its goal is to provide scientists with better knowledge of the clam's active DNA.  Such information is crucial to the study of the basic cellular processes involved in many diseases.  The scientists plan to use the new genetic information to create antibodies.  And they hope to begin experiments impossible without those antibodies as soon as the project is complete.

Dr. Hershko received his Ph.D. in 1969 at the Hadassah and the Hebrew University Medical School, Jerusalem. Among his many honors, Dr. Hershko is a Distinguished Professor at the Rappaport Family Institute for Research in Medical Sciences at the Israel Institute of Technology.

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The Marine Biological Laboratory is an internationally known, independent, nonprofit research and educational institution. It conducts the highest level of original research and education in biology, including the biomedical and environmental sciences. MBL hosts research programs in cell and developmental biology, ecosystems studies, molecular biology and evolution, neurobiology, behavior, global infectious diseases and sensory physiology. Its intensive graduate-level educational program is renowned throughout the life sciences. Founded in 1888, the MBL is the oldest private marine laboratory in the western hemisphere.