Two Americans — William G. Kaelin Jr. and Gregg L. Semenza — and a British scientist, Peter J. Ratcliffe, won the 2019 Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine for discovering how the body’s cells sense and react to oxygen levels, work that has paved the way for new strategies to fight anaemia, cancer and other diseases, the Nobel Committee said.
Mr. Semenza studied a gene known as EPO, which causes the body to create more red blood cells and isolated the specific DNA segments that help it to adapt to low oxygen levels.
Mr. Ratcliffe and Mr. Semenza then applied this knowledge to show that the oxygen sensing mechanism was present in virtually all human tissues.
Mr. Kaelin identified another gene, present in patients with a genetic disorder that puts them at far greater risk of certain cancers.
The gene rewires the body’s ability to prevent the onset of cancer, and it plays a key role in how cancer cells respond to low oxygen levels.
Their work has “greatly expanded our knowledge of how physiological response makes life possible,” the committee said.
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