Over the next six weeks, we will be counting down to the Nobel Prize Ceremony on the 10th of December with the most interesting terms of the laureates’ scientific field. In this first week of the countdown, we will be looking at biology and more specifically the term Cellular Metabolism as the laureates William G. Kaelin, Jr., Sir Peter J. Ratcliffe and Gregg L. Semenza won the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine 2019.
Encyclopædia Britannica defines metabolism as “the sum of the chemical reactions that take place within each cell of a living organism and that provide energy for vital processes and for synthesizing new organic material”. Cellular metabolism is therefore a process of responses inside a cell that creates certain activities based on their specific environment and function. The responses are guided enzymes, which are catalysts for the activity in the cell. These activities can for example be growth and maintenance.
Cellular metabolism has been studied as early as the 13th century. However, more factual and complete records of cellular metabolism can be found in the 16th century. Back then Venetian physiologist Santorio Sanctorius experimented and studied insensible perspiration and published a book on human metabolism in 1614. Later in the 19th century, it was discovered that the organic compounds and chemical reactions found in cells form the basis of metabolic pathways. A more rapid development in biochemistry in the 20th century led to the discovery of enzymes’ role in cellular metabolism. Today, we can study cellular metabolism through instruments such as chromatography and molecular dynamics simulations, which allows us to understand metabolic pathways and metabolic disorders.
As described earlier within cellular metabolism’s activities many things can happen. This year’s Nobel laureates discovered that oxygen is a huge part of cellular metabolism. The available oxygen in the air affects cellular metabolism in ways that make our physiological functions react differently. That is why the higher you ascend, the more energy you need to produce. Our body cannot keep up with this ascend and energy output, because the oxygen available is lower than at sea level. Our cells is therefore dependent on the right amount of oxygen to produce the right amount of energy, growth or maintenance that is needed to function.
Next week we will be learning about Exoplanets and their role in the vastness of space. In the meantime, you can check out the term, Cellular Metabolism, on IATE and learn more about metabolism in our sources.
Press release: The Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine 2019. The Nobel Prize. https://www.nobelprize.org/prizes/medicine/2019/press-release/ (Accessed 30th of October)
Metabolism. Encyclopædia Britannica. https://www.britannica.com/science/metabolism (Accessed 30th of October)
Metabolism. Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Metabolism (Accessed 30th of October)
Metabolism History. Medical News. https://www.news-medical.net/life-sciences/Metabolism-History.aspx (Accessed 30th of October)
Written by Mads Rise
Communication Trainee at the Terminology Coordination Unit of the European Parliament in Luxembourg. Holds a BA in English and IT-based Marketing and Communication from the University of Southern Denmark. Mads finished his BA with a thesis in Search Engine Optimisation and E-commerce. He has hands-on experience in web communication, SEO, administration and logistics.