Marshall Scholar wins Nobel Prize

09 October 2009

1972 Marshall Scholar Roger Tsien wins Nobel Prize in Chemistry

Roger Tsien

Roger Tsien, a professor of pharmacology at the University of California, San Diego, has won the 2008 Nobel Prize in chemistry for his role in helping develop and expand the use of fluorescent proteins. He will share the prize with Osamu Shimomura and Martin Chalfie.

Tsien received word of the prize early Wednesday, 8 October 2008. The official ceremony honoring Tsien, Chalfie, Shimomura and the other 2008 Nobel laureates will be held in Stockholm in December.

Academic Career:
Roger Tsien attended Harvard University on a National Merit Scholarship and graduated summa cum laude with a Bachelor of Science in chemistry and physics in 1972. After completing his bachelor's degree, he joined the Physiological Laboratory at the University of Cambridge in Cambridge, England with the aid of a Marshall Scholarship. He received his Ph.D in physiology from the University of Cambridge in 1977 and was a Research Fellow in Gonville and Caius College, University of Cambridge from 1977 to 1981.

As a Marshall Scholar at the University of Cambridge, Tsien worked to develop a better dye to track the levels of calcium inside cells. Calcium plays a critical role in numerous physiological processes, including the regulation of nerve impulses, muscle contraction, and fertilization. At that time, measuring intracellular calcium was a laborious process and typically involved injecting a calcium-binding protein through the cell membrane, a technique that often damaged the very cells being studied.

Using techniques of chemistry, Tsien developed organic dyes that twist when they bind calcium, dramatically changing the dyes' fluorescence. He found a way to masquerade the dyes so they could pass through the cell membrane without having to be injected.

Tsien is renowned for revolutionizing the fields of cell biology and neurobiology by allowing scientists to peer inside living cells and watch the behavior of molecules in real time. He is well-known for developing colorful dyes, such as Fura-2, to track the movement of calcium within cells and has genetically modified organisms to produce the molecules that make jellyfish and corals glow, creating fluorescent colors in a dazzling variety of hues. These multicolored fluorescent proteins are used by scientists to track where and when certain genes are expressed in cells or in whole organisms.

Taken from UK in the USA, FCO website

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