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Two Nobel Winners Say Reaserch in Their Field Still in Infant Stage With AM-Nobel-Medicine,

October 12, 1992

Two Nobel Winners Say Reaserch in Their Field Still in Infant Stage With AM-Nobel-Medicine, Bjt

SEATTLE (AP) _ Two scientists who discovered the ″life switch″ that regulates how cells behave were rewarded with a Nobel prize Monday, but cautioned that research in their field is still in its infancy.

″We’re still finding pieces of the puzzle,″ Edwin G. Krebs told reporters at the University of Washington. ″New principles are still evolving.″

Krebs, 74, and Edmond H. Fischer, 72 - who have collaborated for most of the past 40 years - ″stumbled on″ their discovery in the mid-1950s.

They were trying to discover the process that enables cells in muscle tissue to use carbohydrates for the energy they consume. They discovered much more, identifying an important class of enzymes that control key activities within living cells.

They found that the enzymes speed up a process necessary to ″switch on″ a cell - telling it to become bone tissue or generate insulin or any other function. When it goes haywire, the result is often disease, from muscular dystrophy to cancer to diabetes.

″You have to understand the mechanism before you can find any cures to problems in the cells,″ Fischer said.

The two based their work on pioneering studies by Carl and Gertie Cori at at Washington University in St. Louis. Krebs was a student of theirs when they learned they had won the Nobel prize in the late 1940s for discovering that there were messengers in the turn-on, turn-off effect in cells.

Another Nobel was awarded in the 1950s for the next step in that research by Earl Sutherland.

When Fischer arrived at the University of Washington in the early 1950s he found that he and Krebs both were working in that area.

″Krebs slapped me on the back and said, ’Let’s take a crack at that problem,‴ said Fischer.

″We stumbled on it,″ Fischer said. ″We had no idea how widespread this reaction would be. It is one of the most important reactions by which cells are turned on and off. Tens of thousands of reactions in the cell can be regulated. It’s involved in every aspect of cell growth, proliferation, differentiation.″

″It absolutely can lead the trail to a cure for cancer,″ he said.

Research in their area has ″exploded″ in the past 10 years, but neither scientist would predict when practical medical treatments might be found.

Ultimately, pharmaceutical companies will work at targeting enzymes and the ″switch-on″ process to prevent diseases, such as diabetes and cancer, both said.

The two will share the $1.2 million prize but neither had any ideas yet on how to spend it. Fischer said the money was the least important part of the award and both said they’ll continue their work.

Fischer was born in Shanghai, China, the son of a Swiss lawyer. He was educated in Geneva.

Krebs, a native of Lansing, Iowa, is a medical doctor who practiced medicine briefly in the Navy but then chose a research career.

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