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Tufts Graduate Wins Nobel Prize

Tufts Graduate Wins Nobel PrizeRoderick MacKinnon – who graduated from Tufts’ School of Medicine – won the 2003 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for his groundbreaking work on the inner workings of cells. Stockholm, Sweden.

Medford/Somerville, Mass. [10.08.03] Tufts graduate Roderick MacKinnon - who produced groundbreaking research on the movement of electrical pulses through the body's cells - was one of two Americans awarded the 2003 Nobel Prize in Chemistry.

› Read MacKinnon's 2002 Tufts Commencement address [here]

"MacKinnon was honored for his work on ion channels, through which electrically charged particles pass," reported the Associated Press. "He surprised other scientists when he was able to determine the structure of a potassium channel, the channel that transports charged particles of potassium. As a result, scientists can now ‘see' ions flowing through channels that can be opened and closed by signals from the cell."

American Peter Agre - who discovered the ‘channels' that allow water to pass in and out of cells - was the other scientist awarded a Nobel Prize in Chemistry this year.

"These are discoveries that are of fundamental importance for the understanding of life processes, not just among humans and higher organisms, but also for bacteria and plants," Bengt Norden - chairman of the Nobel Committee for chemistry - said in a New York Times report.

MacKinnon - who graduated from the Tufts School of Medicine in 1982 and received an honorary degree in science from Tufts in 2002 - published his groundbreaking work in 1998 while at Rockefeller University in New York.

After 10 years of studying the biophysics of ion channels, MacKinnon published a series of four structural solutions - high resolution molecular-level "snapshots" - of ion channels that literally showed the scientific community how electrical signaling occurs.

"We now can see that nature came up with a method for moving a signal that is elegant in its simplicity," the Tufts graduate said of his research.

In 1998, SCIENCE Magazine cited MacKinnon's work among the top 10 research advances of the year.

"My belief is that if you do good science, science will take care of you," MacKinnon said in a statement. "If you tackle a problem and keep working on it, eventually you will find some kind of outcome."

The Tufts graduate will share the $1.3 million financial award from the Nobel Foundation with Agre.

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