October 07, 2008

Nobel Prize for Medicine 2008 announced

Three scientists share the Nobel Prize for Medicine this year. Francoise Barre-Sinoussi and Luc Montagnier receive the prize for the discovery of viruses behind AID, while Harald zur Hausen would get the prize for his research on cervical cancer..

THEY ARE three in number. Two of them are French and the third is a German. The trio is credited with the discovery of the viruses behind Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) and cervical cancer and were announced as the winners of the Nobel Prize for Medicine, the most prestigious award in the world on Monday (October 6).

Francoise Barre-Sinoussi and Luc Montagnier, the two scientists of France will share one half of the Nobel prize as they discovered the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), which causes AIDS. Germany’s Harald zur Hausen, who will receive the other half, proved that ’Human Papilloma Virus’ (HPV) is the main reason which causes cervical cancer. Cervical cancer is the second most common scourge that affects women.

The Nobel citation says that the French pair’s HIV discovery as one of the pre-requisites for the better understanding of the biology of the disease and its anti-retroviral treatment. The new discovery will certainly lead to the development of methods to diagnose infected patients and to examine blood products in a more effective way.

AIDS, one of the dreadful diseases first came to public notice in 1981, when some US medical experts found an unusual cluster of deaths among young homosexuals in California and New York. Till date, this horrible disease has claimed the lives of 25 million people throughout the world. The most striking fact is that 33 million people have been living with HIV/AIDS across the globe. The HIV virus, which causes AIDS, destroys immune cells, thereby reduces the immunity of the human body.

Born in 1947, Barre-Sinoussi is a professor at the Institut Pasteur in Paris and heads the Regulation of Retroviral Infections Unit in the Virology Department. Montagnier, who was born in 1932, is a professor emeritus and also serves as the director of the World Foundation for AIDS Research and Prevention in Paris.

His discovery will now make the understanding of mechanisms of HPV-induced carcinogenesis easy and will also bring a developmental study regarding the prophylactic vaccines against HPV acquisition.

Cervical cancer, the ’silent killer’, is mostly found in women. Almost five percent of cancers are caused by this virus. According to the statistical report, this virus affects some 5,00,000 women per year across the globe. Zur Hausen, the 72-year-old professor, is the former chairman and scientific director of the German Cancer Research Centre in Heidelberg.

The Nobel Prize for Physics is to be announced on Tuesday (October 7), followed by the Chemistry on Wednesday (October 8), Literature on Thursday (October 9), Peace on Friday (October 10) and Economics on Monday (October 13), next week.

The Nobel Prize, founded by Alfred Nobel, a Swedish industrialist was first awarded in 1901. The Nobel Laureates receive a gold medal, a diploma and 10 million Swedish kronor. The awardees will receive the Nobel Prize on December 10, in Stockholm, the capital city of Sweden.

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