Nobel Prize was introduced by Alfred Nobel in 1901 to those contributions which conferred the greatest benefit to humankind. There are five areas for this prize. These areas are Physiology or medicine, Chemistry, Physics, Literature and Peace. In 1968, there was the introduction of the Nobel Memorial Prize for the field of Economic Sciences. This year, the credit of the illustrations of portraits of winners goes to Niklas Elmehed from Sweden.
Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine
The Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine 2020 was awarded jointly to Harvey J. Alter, Michael Houghton and Charles M. Rice for the discovery of the Hepatitis C virus. All the contributors have worked with Hepatitis for several years. There are undoubtedly many publications by their names.
From Left to Right: Harvey J. Alter, Michael Houghton and Charles M. Rice
The Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine is awarded by The Nobel Assembly at Karolinska Institutet.
Hepatitis refers to liver inflammation. The various causes of hepatitis include viral infections, alcohol abuse, environmental toxins and autoimmune disease. There are two main types of hepatitis – hepatitis A and hepatitis B or C. Hepatitis A is transmitted by polluted water or food and hepatitis B or C by blood & bodily fluids.
Hepatitis A and Hepatitis B viruses are well studied over the years. However, the hepatitis C virus is a grave disease as it leads to blood-borne hepatitis. Hepatitis C is a major global health problem, causing cirrhosis and liver cancer in people all around the globe. Hence, it certainly is a study for the benefit of the entire humankind.
As the virus has been discovered and studied, various possibilities opened up for fighting against hepatitis C. Due to this discovery, it is now possible to make way for possible blood tests and new medicines. These will be unremarkably potential for saving millions of lives.
Hepatitis C Virus Discovery
Blumberg was awarded the Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine in 1976 for the discovery of the Hepatitis B virus. However, even after this discovery, many cases remained unexplained. And, after extensive study, these cases were referred to as “non-A, non-B hepatitis”.
Alter demonstrated methodological studies of transfusion-associated hepatitis. These studies demonstrated that an unknown virus was a common cause of chronic hepatitis. Houghton isolated the genome of hepatitis C virus. Additionally, Rice proved that hepatitis C virus alone was enough for causing hepatitis.
Nobel Prize in Chemistry
The Nobel Prizes for Chemistry and Physics are awarded by The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences. The Nobel Prize in Chemistry 2020 was awarded jointly to Emmanuelle Charpentier and Jennifer A. Doudna for the development of a method for genome editing.
From Left to Right: Emmanuelle Charpentier and Jennifer A. Doudna
The researchers have discovered the CRISPR/Cas9 genetic scissors. These scissors have the capability to change the DNA of animals, plants and micro-organisms with high precision. Additionally, this technique is contributing to new cancer therapies and may also help in curing inherited diseases! Therefore, this certainly deserves a Nobel Prize for the betterment of the humankind.
CRISPR/Cas was discovered naturally by Charpentier. Charpentier and Doudna together were successful in recreating these scissors in a test tube. Naturally, these genetic scissors recognise DNA from viruses. Now, the researchers could control the scissors to cut any DNA molecule at a pre-determined site.
Nobel Prize in Physics
The Nobel Prize in Physics 2020 was divided. One half awarded to Roger Penrose for the discovery that black hole formation is a robust prediction of the general theory of relativity And the other half jointly to Reinhard Genzel and Andrea Ghez for the discovery of a supermassive compact object at the centre of our galaxy.
From Left to Right : Roger Penrose, Reinhard Genzel and Andrea Ghez
Work by the Researchers
Everyone knows the ‘Theory of Relativity’ by Albert Einstein. Einstein himself did not believe in the existence of black holes. However, after 10 years of Einstein’s death, Roger Penrose had something to say about black holes. He proved the existence of black holes and also described them in detail. Penrose’s theory is of great importance and is one of the greatest theories in the field of physics.
With the help of the world’s largest telescopes, Genzel and Ghez studied the centre of the Milky Way. Their study focussed on Sagittarius A region at the galaxy’s centre. The two groups agree on finding an extremely heavy & invisible object that pulls jumble of stars, causing them to rush around at dizzying speeds. Although there is no evidence yet, the object is expected to a black hole.
These discoveries have put a weight on the existence of black holes in our galaxy and that the lives of everyone on this Earth can be affected by their presence.
Researchers all around the globe need to be respected and valued for their immense contribution towards the betterment and upliftment of the humankind. This is being carried out by the various prizes and awards for their contribution. Gradually, people are realising the importance of having great minds work for society’s betterment.
For more information as well as information about the Nobel Prize in other fields, you may visit: https://www.nobelprize.org/prizes/about/prize-announcement-dates/