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US scientists get chemistry Nobel for work on cells

Stockholm, Oct. 8 (Reuters): US scientists Peter Agre and Roderick MacKinnon have won this year’s Nobel chemistry prize for studies of tiny channels in cell membranes, which have contributed to the understanding of fundamental life processes.

The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, which awards the prestigious prize, said today their discoveries of how salts and water are transported in and out of human cells was of “great importance for our understanding of many diseases”.

“They have opened our eyes to a fantastic family of molecular machines: channels, gates and valves all of which are needed for the cell to function,” the academy said.

Agre, 54, from Northfield, Minnesota, works at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore. MacKinnon, 47, grew up near Boston and works at Howard Hughes Medical institute at the Rockefeller University in New York.

The prize is worth 10 million crown ($1.3 million).

“I was in my pajamas at 5.30 am when I got a call from Sweden. It didn’t seem to be a joke, and life has been pandemonium-struck ever since,” Agre said. His contribution has specifically led to an entire series of biochemical, physiological and genetic studies of water channels in bacteria, plants and mammals.

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