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Nobel Prize Winner in Chemistry is Faculty Researcher at Northwestern

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October 12, 2004

The Feinberg School of Medicine has a connection to the 2004 Nobel Prize in Chemistry.

Nobel Laureate Aaron Ciechanover, who with two other scientists discovered how a protein called ubiquitin within cells targets other proteins to be discarded, is in the second year of a four-year adjunct faculty appointment at Northwestern, where he works with Feinberg School researchers and mentors medical school students.

Ciechanover is one of the researchers on an $11 million National Institutes of Health-funded Program Project Grant, “Pathophysiology of Alveolar Epithelial Lung Injury,” led by Jacob I. Sznajder, M.D., Dr. Roy Patterson Professor of Medicine and chief of pulmonary and critical care medicine at the Feinberg School and at Northwestern Memorial Hospital.

Ciechanover maintains a close collaboration with colleagues in pulmonary and critical care medicine and in the department of cell and molecular biology at the Feinberg School, where they are investigating how two key proteins (Na,K-ATPase and keratin) in lung are targeted for degradation having been tagged with a ubiquitin “label” and fed into proteasomes, the cells’ “waste disposers,” where the proteins are destroyed. Shortly before the protein enters the proteasome, its ubiquitin label is disconnected for re-use.

Understanding these cellular events will provide insights into the mechanisms contributing to lung injury and to the physiology of both normal and diseased cells.