Nobel Prize winner in Chemistry used ESRF biocrystallography facilities


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The 2003 Nobel Prize in Chemistry was recently awarded to Roderick MacKinnon, who conducted some of his research at the ESRF. He earned the accolade for his studies on the structure and mechanics of ion channels.

Ion channels are tiny pores that stud the surface of all of our cells. These channels are made of proteins that let ions such as potassium, calcium, sodium and chloride molecules pass by. The opening and closing of these channels release ions, moving electrical impulses from the brain in a wave to their destination in the body. Roderick MacKinnon was a visiting scientist at ESRF several times in the year 2000 and worked on potassium and chloride channels.

Being a US citizen, he has also conducted his research at other synchrotrons, all in the United States. The fact that part of his research took place at the ESRF, in Europe, is a sign of the thriving situation of this European facility. It also shows its spirit of collaboration and openness towards American scientists.

Professor Mackinnon is currently the head of the Laboratory of Molecular Neurobiology and Biophysics at the Rockefeller University in New York, USA.

This year, the Nobel Prize in Chemistry 2003 was awarded “for the discoveries concerning channels in cell membranes”, with half of the prize to Roderick MacKinnon and the other half to Peter Agre for the discovery of water channels.