Nature Podcast

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Adam Rutherford: Coming up in this week's show, malaria genomics.

Stephen L. Hoffman: The hope was that this will translate immediately into new interventions for controlling these terrible diseases, it hasn't happened to the extent that we had hoped it would.

Kerri Smith: And it's physics everywhere you look this week as we peer into a galaxy far far away.

Mark Swinbank: What we are trying to do ultimately is understand how galaxies like the Milky Way evolved from their very earliest times in the early universe to the present day.

Adam Rutherford: Kerri re-lives her school physics lessons.

David Thomas: What's changed I think, the students know less content but they do hopefully have a better insight into how things work.

Kerri Smith: And we bring you a round up of Nobel news. This is the Nature Podcast. I'm Kerri Smith.

Adam Rutherford: And I'm Adam Rutherford.

Adam Rutherford: First up this week, Geoff Brumfiel has been doing a spot of star archaeology in the far reaches of the universe.

Geoff Brumfiel: One big question in astronomy is how the Milky Way formed. The answer lies in far off galaxies. Their light has travelled billions of years to get to earth and so they appear far younger than those nearby, but there's a catch. The farther away the galaxy, the harder it is to spot. So Mark Swinbank of the University of Durham in the UK and his colleagues found a clever trick. Gravitational fields bend light and the team used the gravity of a huge galactic cluster to focus light from a galaxy that was around 10 billion light years away. What they found was a little surprising. Here's Mark. Nature 455, 775–777 (9 October 2008) doi:

A. Mark Swinbank: What we are trying to do ultimately is understand how galaxies like the Milky Way evolved from their very earliest times in the early universe to the present day and we are trying to do this directly by looking at galaxies, normal star forming galaxies like the Milky Way but as they were back in what we call the hierarchies of the universe, so back at very early times just as they were beginning to form and evolve.

Geoff Brumfiel: I understand that that's actually a pretty difficulty thing to do.

A. Mark Swinbank: It's incredibly tough because what we are trying to now look back and in this paper, we are looking back about 10 billion years. We know the universe is about 13 and a half billion years old. So we are looking back some like 80% of the way back to the universe and that light has travelled for 10 billion years. These galaxies are incredibly incredibly faint and not only are they faint, they are incredibly small on the sky and even with the biggest telescopes, even with Hubble, they have been trying to observe these galaxies, it is incredibly tough.

Geoff Brumfiel: So you've found, sort of a, clever trick for magnifying the galaxy.

A. Mark Swinbank: That's right, so one of the most spectacular natural phenomenon is something called gravitational lensing. Some of them are massive structures in the universe are called galaxy clusters. These are accumulations of thousands of galaxies and these are in the foreground and we really use these as a tool. It works in a sense that the galaxy cluster acts as a natural lens. So it bends light and amplifies light from a galaxy or from an object that's in the background. So in the same way the telescope makes an image bigger and brighter. These natural lenses of course, these are much bigger than your ordinary telescopes and these acts as natural lenses and amplify galaxies that just happened to be down the line of sight.

Geoff Brumfiel: So what were you able to see with this gravitational lens and then with the telescope here on earth?

A. Mark Swinbank: In this case what we found is a galaxy at the red shift z 3 and that's looking back about 80% of the age of the universe. This galaxy is being amplified by about factor of 30 times. So this galaxy that we are observing is about a factor of 30 times brighter and about a factor of 10 times bigger than it would be without the lens. And what this really allows to do is take an incredibly detailed image of a galaxy, then we would normally be otherwise able to view.

Geoff Brumfiel: And what did you see?

A. Mark Swinbank: What we were looking for is, is this galaxy rotating or is it like a merger of little galaxies, where are the stars forming and because of the incredible resolution that we have got from our gravitational lensing what was found is a galaxy that appears to have a very stable velocity field and so it seems to be rotating a bit like what we see in the Milky Way, but we've also been able to combine that with something called millimetre spectroscopy and that's where we actually probe the gas properties and the cold gases that fuel the star formation and that's what stars are made from. With our data what we have been able to do is really combine the gas properties with the dynamics of the system how fast it is rotating and where the stars are forming and we were really been able to put all the key ingredients, if you like, in how stars form and how these galaxies build up together into one single picture.

Geoff Brumfiel: So as I understand that there has been a debate over the years about whether galaxies like the Milky Way started out as little galaxies, they collided or were just giant balls of gas and your finding has something to say about this right?

A. Mark Swinbank: That's right, so what we found is this system appears to be regularly rotating and that was something of surprise, because many of the theoretical models that we compared to say that galaxies as these early times, probably build up from little galaxies merged together. In this system, what we found is that this thing already appears to be a well hoarded galaxy and we have some sort of disk already in place and it might argue, because we are going to go up one galaxy and obviously it's hard to draw far reaching from conclusions from one galaxy what we would really need is a much bigger sample now, but with this technique what we have shown is that we can find galaxies that is early times that appear to be systems like we might expect for the Milky Way, rotating system that are already in place but at these early times.

Geoff Brumfiel: So where do you go from here? Look for more of these guys or..?

A. Mark Swinbank: So we have programs in place to try and find many more of these and we now have samples of several tens. Now it's incredibly difficult because you need the integration times that the amount of time we used on the telescope is about one night and to observe these galaxies, so it's relatively expensive in terms of time to follow up these galaxies in so much detail, however, the level of detail that you can get, thanks to this lensing phenomenon really means that we can really get inside galaxies at these very early times and understand their distribution of where stars are forming, try to find regions like the Milky Way and try and find out how those stars are forming.

Adam Rutherford: Mark Swinbank talking to Geoff. Never fear physics fans, there's more to come later in the show, plus this week Nature Video presents the first of five short films on the future of physics, the universe and everything. Five Nobel Prize winners, several eager students and an almost infinite number of huge ideas. Go to to tune into those and to sign up for the series in iTunes.

Kerri Smith: But don't go just yet. Still to come we have got a new source of stem cells and the visual system's gatekeeper. Before all that our unofficial infectious disease correspondent Charlotte Stoddart has caught another one.

Charlotte Stoddart: Malaria is caused by a parasite which gets into our blood when we are bitten by an infected mosquito. In 2002, scientists completed the first genome sequence of the most prevalent of these parasites, Plasmodium falciparum. In this week's Nature, we publish genomes two and three. Falciparum accounts for around 80% of all human malarial infections and has the greatest toll on health, but parasite number two, Plasmodium vivax is also significant, because it's the main cause of the disease outside Africa. To find out how all the sequencing got started, I called Steve Hoffman who was part of the team that sequenced vivax and he was also there with Craig Venter at the very start of the project. Nature 455, 757–763 (9 October 2008) doi:

Stephen L. Hoffman: In the summer of 1995, Venter published the sequence of the first free living organism and then published another one in November. So all of a sudden there was this new possibility of understanding the road map in essence of these important disease causing organisms and so we discussed in December of 1995 the possibility of sequencing the genomes of Plasmodium falciparum and Plasmodium vivax.

Charlotte Stoddart: It took until 2002 to sequence falciparum and another 6 years to complete vivax, why so long? Well partly because of sporadic funding, but also because these are large and complex genomes. This complexity is also the reason why knowing that sequence is so important.

Stephen L. Hoffman: Our tools for intervening with the parasite are quite limited and parasites as opposed to the viruses are bacteria are really complex. You can see from this paper on Plasmodium vivax it has 14 chromosomes, 23 million letters of the genetic code whereas a virus you know, could be 200 or 300 and a bacteria a few thousands. So these are very complex organisms and to try to develop vaccines, to develop better drugs, knowledge seems to be the sine qua non for going forward.

Charlotte Stoddart: Jane Carlton from New York University's Langone Medical Centre worked with Steve on the vivax genome and she spoke to me from her busy city office.

Jane M. Carlton: One of the main reasons that we also wanted to sequence the genome is that this is not possible to be able to grow the parasite in the lab, so there are in fact very few resources of Plasmodium vivax researchers, so providing the genome sequences is going to provide a very important resource for people who do want to continue their work on the parasites.

Charlotte Stoddart: The ultimate goal of all the sequencing work is to produce the vaccine against malaria. A goal that has so far eluded researchers. Steve Hoffman again.

Stephen L. Hoffman: The hope was that this would translate immediately into new interventions for controlling these terrible diseases. It hasn't happened to the extent that we had hoped it would and there is a number of reasons for that. The first is the complexity of the parasite. The second is the investment in research. It's rather extraordinary to me for this incredibly important parasite, Plasmodium vivax, that were now sitting 13 years after we started, trying to sequence the genome that we are actually finishing it and that in large part had to do with inadequate investment in the research.

Charlotte Stoddart: Now that we finally have the vivax sequence and with more funds becoming available from bodies such as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, are we any closer to a vaccine? Well gene expression studies using the vivax genome have already started, but as Jane explained to me a lot more basic research is needed.

Jane M. Carlton: There is a huge amount that we don't know about Plasmodium vivax. The genome sequence is a start but it is by no means the end. One of the rather frustrating issues that arose from the genome project is that we were unable to identify the molecular mechanism of even the genes involved in the dormant stage. So Plasmodium vivax is so different from Plasmodium falciparum and it has a dormant stage in the liver and this can produce a re-infection of a patient months or even years after an initial infection and we had hoped that by mining the genome we would be able to find the genes which might be involved in this process. But we were unable to do so, primarily because we need other basic studies such as looking at gene expression and protein expression to be able to answer those kinds of questions.

Charlotte Stoddart: Given that genome sequencing has not yet saved anyone from malaria and there's still a lot of work to be done, I put it to Steve that limited resources might be better spent on malaria control measures that are available now and we know to work; controls such as bed nets and pesticide sprays.

Stephen L. Hoffman: The history of science, the history of work on other diseases tells us that it's unlikely that those types of interventions will be the end all and it's unlikely that the insecticides that are being sprayed on the bed nets right now will continue to be effective 5 or 10 years from now meaning the mosquitoes will develop resistance to them and it's unlikely that the drugs that we have right now will be as effective 5 or 10 years from now and therefore in order to really knock this parasite out, to eliminate it, we are going to need new tools and the best tool for that would be a vaccine that totally prevented infection and transmission.

Kerri Smith: Steve Hoffman and before him Jane Carlton talking to Charlotte. And there is more on malaria in this week's magazine. Go to


Adam Rutherford: Now stem cells hold the potential, as yet unfulfilled, over generating cells damaged or lost in diseases such as Parkinson's and Alzheimer's. However, the ethical considerations about harvesting embryonic stem cells continue to live large. Earlier this year, the UK parliament voted to permit the use of embryonic stem cells for research and both presidential candidates in the forthcoming US elections are likely to lift the federal ban, but in Germany the law is not in scientists favour. The new study by a German team has managed to generate pluripotent stem cells by harvesting cells from adult human testes. Chief biology editor Ritu Dhand is with us in the studio, but first here is senior author Thomas Skutella on how the restrictions drove them to find other stem cells sources. Nature advance online publication 8 October 2008

Thomas Skutella: In Germany we have restrictions to working with embryonic stem cells, so we were looking for pluripotent cells of different origin and they were insights that those cells might be bond in the germ cells which make sperms, the spermatogonia and it has been shown that those cells might be pluripotent, so that was the starting point. We got a good cooperation with our colleagues from the Urology departments and then got testes. After culturing on this spermatogonia cells, those cells changed their phenotype, though we tested different kinds of differentiation protocols used with embryonic stem cells then we tried myogenic or osteogenic or neurogeneic cells and we tried to get neurons and it was possible to get cells with a neural phenotype.

Adam Rutherford: Thomas Skutella from Tübingen University on differentiating testes derived stem cells into bone, muscle and neuronal cells. Ritu that's how they did it. Why are stem cells so important?

Ritu Dhand: So humans by and large are unable to regenerate, but most organs are, sort of, you get diseases and injury and what we would like to be able to do is to add a source of healthy cells to get regeneration. Stem cells offer us an avenue for obtaining healthy cells that can be used to replenish damaged organs.

Adam Rutherford: And this new research from Skutella's group effectively side steps the ethical minefield that surrounds working on embryonic stem cells which have to be harvested from aborted foetuses.

Ritu Dhand: That's right, I mean, as you are well aware we've published many many papers and we know of many stem cells that have been derived from embryos but the ethical implications are such that we do need to look at other avenues of producing stem cells and the adult offers us a way to do this.

Adam Rutherford: Okay, so these new stem cells are from testes, they are pluripotent, meaning that they can differentiate into many many tissue types. But embryonic stem cells are omnipotent meaning that they by definition can turn into literally any type of cell, so how do they compare particularly with regards to future therapies?

Ritu Dhand: Well, we know that embryonic stem cells are omnipotent because we can do the gold standard test on them and that is to inject them into a blastocyst which is a 100-cell embryo and see it give rise to offspring and i.e. it is contributed to all cell types in any given embryo, however, you cannot do that with humans and what we have here, a test that we use in humans is to see if you can derive a teratoma which is effectively a benign tumour but comprised of the three main types of cell that give rise to all our organs and tissues.

Adam Rutherford: And in this new paper they have demonstrated that the cells have grown into mesoderm, ectoderm and endoderm.

Ritu Dhand: They have indeed. But what we also know is that all adult stem cell lines generated and embryonic stem cell lines generated have different regenerative capacity, so different capacity to give rise to different cell types. So, while you know we can say that the adult derived human stem cells are multipotent and they do give rise to most cell types, we are unable to say for any adult derived stem cell that they are omnipotent because at this point, we don't know if they are.

Adam Rutherford: Okay, so still a major practical step forward in getting from stem cells to therapies.

Ritu Dhand: A huge step forward in that we have another source of adult stem cells.

Adam Rutherford: Okay thanks Ritu. Kerri's back to school in just a moment. Find out if she has done her homework, but first Natasha Gilbert has been finding out about the guardian of the gateway in the brain's visual system.

Natasha Gilbert: Francis Crick, the co-discoverer of the structure of DNA had his fingers in lots of scientific pious and in 1984, he came up with a theory about how the brain focuses its attention on the most important bits of visual information it receives. In this week's Nature, a team have finally tested his hypothesis. It had been thought that the cortex, the outermost layer of the brain and the main site of consciousness was responsible for filtering the flood of visual input and allowing us to focus on the important information. But a study has found evidence backing up Crick's suggestion that the thalamus which relays information from the eyes to the cortex could have an active role to play. I asked James Cavanaugh one of the study's authors to explain what they found. Nature advance online publication 5 October 2008

James Cavanaugh: Attention is a way of filtering out what's going on in the outside world to figure out where you are going to move your eyes next.

Natasha Gilbert: And so what did you do in this particular paper?

James Cavanaugh: So in this particular paper, we were investigating a hypothesis made by Francis Crick about 25 years ago and he was looking at the connections made between the thalamus which is structure in the centre of the brain that typically receives the sensory signals coming into the brain whether they are somatosensory or auditory or visual like the ones that we are studying and acts as a kind of a relay station where things are organized and then sent off to cortex. Now in this relay in the thalamus, there is a small nucleus called the lateral geniculate nucleus and this is the first landing spot in the brain of information coming from the retina. The entire thalamus is kind of covered by this thin nucleus as well called the thalamic reticular nucleus and what happens is the signals leading the thalamus goes through this sheet and they leave connections there as well. What Francis Crick observed is that this sheet, this thalamic reticular nucleus is perfectly situated to provide some sort of modulatory processing before these sensory signals are even reaching any kind of conscious perception at all. This is really raw data that is coming into the brain and his quote was that if the thalamus is the gateway to cortex then the thalamic reticular nucleus might be regarded as the guardian of this gateway.

Natasha Gilbert: And you decided to test Crick's theory?

James Cavanaugh: Yes we did. We trained several monkeys to fixate on a screen and we guided them with a cue at the point where they were fixating to attend to one of two stimuli that would then appear peripherally. They need to shift their attention without shifting their eyes.

Natasha Gilbert: And what did you find?

James Cavanaugh: What we found is that the responses of cells in the lateral geniculate nucleus that is in the thalamus proper, the first landing spot of visual information in the brain, these responses were enhanced when attention was directed in to the receptive field of these neurons and what I mean by a receptive field is that each neuron in the lateral geniculate nucleus responds just to a small portion of the visual field and since there are so many cells there, they do entail the visual field, so the entire visual field is represented. But any given neuron just responds to a very small portion of the receptive field and so we would put one of the stimuli on the receptive field of the neuron from which we were recording and another stimulus somewhere else and during the experiment the only thing that was changing is where the monkey was directing its attention. So it's the exact same stimulus and yet the responses are changing due to the monkey's internal state.

Natasha Gilbert: What does this mean for our understanding of how the visual process works?

James Cavanaugh: Well, the second part of the result is that the thalamic reticular nucleus, because it sends an inhibitory connection back to the thalamus, we would expect that if responses are going up in the lateral geniculate nucleus that they should be going down in the thalamic reticular nucleus and that is also exactly what we observed. So what this means is that attention appears to be having an effect on the raw visual data coming out of the retina, long before it ever reaches the cortex. So it's not really as mechanistic as we had originally thought, and there's a whole lot more going on here. It's not simply a passive computer relay that's just reorganizing information and sending it on, it is reorganizing it but it's also modulating it according to what is important to the animal.

Natasha Gilbert: And how does that relate to Crick's theory?

James Cavanaugh: Well, what it does is it gives evidence that everything is in fact consistent.

Natasha Gilbert: Why is this important. Does it have any practical applications?

James Cavanaugh: At the moment, it's fairly basic research. I believe people that would think about this, you know, the neuroscientists that were thinking about it had an idea that this attentional information has to be filtering down to earlier stages any ways, but it's the finding of the proof, you know, the proof of the pudding is in the eating and so it's the proof that turns this to be just more than conjecture, more than something that makes sense and should be, it is now something that we have observed and is.

Adam Rutherford: James Cavanaugh from NIH in Maryland. More physics now. A few days ago, we packed Kerri off on a school bus to see how the physicists of the future are shaping week.

Kerri Smith: This week saw the publication of a report on the state of physics in the UK produced by an expert panel and commissioned by the government. The prognosis is generally good. Space science in the UK is second only to the United States in terms of its scientific impact. The workforce is stable and the economy also benefits from physics and the guys of IT, construction and aerospace, but the panel also identified a problem. The physics pipeline is not overflowing with would-be physicists. I wanted to know is our school system training the physicists of the future. Is it easier or harder now than 20 years ago to back yourself with physics qualification when you leave school. And is school physics fun? I have come to Burnham Grammar School in Berkshire in the UK to re-live my school physics lessons, tears and all and find out. My first stop, GCSE physics with teacher Bob Miles and his class of 15-year olds. Nature 455, 592 – 592 (02 Oct 2008),

Bob Miles: My name is Bob Miles and I am a physics teacher and I have been at the school for just over a year. We are looking at the way power stations are efficient or not efficient, so in that way it's quite a topical subject with the government worrying about nuclear power stations for the future. So this is really informing the students part of the course which really prepares them for life out in the big wide world.

Kerri Smith: Is it more interesting now than it was?

Bob Miles: I think it varies from the science that's orientated about every day in life to science that's more methodical, so in sense it is what varies and that makes interesting for more people.

Kerri Smith: So school physics today perhaps has a wider appeal than it used to. But what other changes have there been? I walked into an A level class and asked teacher David Thomas.

David Thomas: My name is David Thomas. I am a physicist, I graduated from Exeter quite a few years ago. I have been teaching physics for, I think, 25 years. I think when I started there was more prescribed content, experiments were a little bit more prescriptive and generally more reliable, a lot more content and a lot more learning. Certainly what has changed I think the students know less content but they do hopefully have a better insight into how things work and they should at the end of the day, end of the course be with a better awareness about how to design experiments.

Kerri Smith: The scientific method David talks about was certainly an evidence in the classroom. Practical lessons were firm favourite among the students I spoke to. Two of the A level students Zara Jeffries and PJ Virk talked me through their experiments which looked and sounded a bit like glorified metal jenga. Zara first.

Zara Jeffries: We are testing the strength of paper in a cylinder form; so we are testing depending on the height of the cylinder from which weight you can take. Well we have had a theory that if the height is, the less weight it should take, but at the moment it is not going as we predicted.

Kerri Smith: What's been happening instead?

Zara Jeffries: As I think, we would have one anomaly where a bigger piece of paper has taken so much weight.

PJ Virk: We haven't had much of a trend which is a bit strange, because you would think that a big piece of paper would take less weights.

Kerri Smith: Sara and PJ both take a combination of science subjects at A level and are keen to go on to vet science and medicine respectively, but does their physics teaching prepare them well enough for science at university. David Thomas again.

David Thomas: You cannot know everything and having an inquiring mind in confidence to research things is far more important than knowing everything that is in a particular text book, having confidence to use the internet or use textbooks to find out unknown facts is actually a much more important skill and so to think that researchers will use.

Kerri Smith: Burnham Grammar School is a specialist science and maths college, meaning that they have funding from the government to focus on science teaching and link science up with other areas of the curriculum. Students really benefit from this says headteacher and deck scientist Andrew Gillispie.

Andrew Gillispie: I think the opportunities that as a science college that we are able to offer our students, they do see the work of real scientists because we have links with industrial partners, we have links with universities and so they do come in and speak to our students and our students meet scientists they can ask them about their day-to-day work and those things are very successful. If you ask any student, who a scientist is or what a scientist looks like they will always point to a middle-aged man without any hair, a white lab coat and spectacles and really those stereotypes have broken down when they meet researchers and scientists from our industrial partners and also from the universities that visit here.

Kerri Smith: That was Andrew Gillespie making sure his school keeps the physics pipeline flowing.

Adam Rutherford: Thanks Kerri that report on the state of UK Physics was produced by Bill Wakeham vice chair of Southampton University. He wrote about the results in last week's Nature.

Kerri Smith: Finally it's Nobel week. Nature's online news editor Mark Peplow joins us in the studio. Hi Mark.

Mark Peplow: Hello.

Kerri Smith: Now tell us the first going to be announced is always biology, so who was the lucky winner this year.

Mark Peplow: So this is the Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine comes out on Monday and there are 3 winners this year. Half of the prize went to Harold zur Hausen and he was honoured for his work on the Human Papilloma Virus which is the virus that causes cervical cancer. The other half of the prize was split between two people Françoise Barré-Sinoussi and Luc Montagnier basically for their work on the Human Immunodeficiency Virus, HIV which causes AIDS.

Kerri Smith: Okay, now here in the pod basically we are just after the gossip. So does everyone agree that they were good choices?

Mark Peplow: And I think on the whole yes, people do agree that these were good choices, but there has been some questions about well may be there have been enough people involved in the HIV story that may be a whole Nobel for 3 people, 3 being the maximum that the Nobel committee awards the prize to. And may be HIV could have taken up the whole prize and likewise going back to the 1980s there was a great deal of debate about who had actually pinpointed HIV-1 is the virus in question and Robert Gallo at the US National Institute of Health in Maryland was someone who had claimed to be the true discoverer but by the end of the 1980s the heads of state of France and the US had actually brokered an agreement to if you would like to share the benefits of the various discoveries from scientists working in their countries and pretty much everyone had agreed on what their respective roles were by then. That's something actually that the Nobel committee has very carefully detailed in their announcement this week.

Kerri Smith: Sounds cozy.

Adam Rutherford: so that's was all about viruses, physics prizes also announced on Tuesday for a concept called "Broken Symmetry" and now you are going to have to explain that to everyone.

Mark Peplow: I know that's fine. So this went to three different Japanese-born physicists and it is all about the idea of breaking symmetry. Now what the Nobel committee explains this to the world was to imagine a pencil balancing on its tip and if you look it from the top, it appears to be completely symmetric but as soon as it falls into a lower energy state it points in a particular direction and that symmetry is broken. Now basically where this applies to particle physics is that if you imagine just after the Big Bang that's this super incredibly high energy you have forces and particles effectively behaving identically because they are at such high energy. When that energy goes down as the universe cools just milliseconds, microseconds after the Big Bang, it start to condense down to different types of forces; different types of particles; the symmetry of the initial universe is broken. Now various scientists have been able to use this concept and to actually describe why we see the variety of particles and forces in the quantum world that we see today.

Adam Rutherford: So that's pretty high concept stuff. It's a per se question, but is there any practical application for that concept?

Mark Peplow: Well the practical application is to understand the fabric of our universe and that seems to be one of the best reasons to do this sort of research.

Kerri Smith: So a definite practical application came in the form of the chemistry prize which was announced yesterday. What's the speculation before hand on who would back that?

Mark Peplow: Well, there was a lot of speculation about when rather than if someone would get the Nobel Prize for the discovery and use of Green Fluorescent Protein and indeed this is the year that it has been awarded. It's used by bio-scientists around the world really to basically watch molecules in action inside the cells and follow what they are doing. Now it is awarded to three people Osamu Shimomura for first isolating this stuff from a beautiful jelly fish and Martin Chalfie who basically demonstrated the value of this is a tag so that you can stick it to proteins and insert it into genes in cells to see how these things are behaving and finally Roger Tsien who expanded the range of colours that this GFP type molecule could actually express and now researchers are able to access a whole rainbow of colours, thanks to his work.

Kerri Smith: There's a lot of stuff that cell biologists would not be able to even start to do without this protein, but how will chemists react to this, this being quite biology orientated again this prize.

Mark Peplow: I think chemists have got used to the idea now that biology increasingly creeps into what's considered to be the chemistry prize and I am sure you will see some chemists are saying that's not really chemistry, but the truth is that it is and its indicative of just how widely chemistry is used in all other sciences, how crucial is to underpinning so many other fields.

Kerri Smith: And it's probably worth pointing out you're an ex-chemist yourself.

Mark Peplow: I did once work in a chemistry lab that's true, so I must express some interest there. But you know the interesting thing is that you know you look at something like the structure of DNA when the Nobel was awarded for that and that wasn't a chemistry prize, even though it's fundamentally it's a chemical discovery and that was for Medicine or Physiology. So there has always been a long history of interplay between these two prizes.

Kerri Smith: Okay, and thanks for stopping by the pod Mark.

Mark Peplow: Okay thanks very much.

Kerri Smith: In fact that's all from us too this week.

Adam Rutherford: There is more from previous physics Nobel Prize winners in 5 short films from Nature. They're at and more details on all the papers that we have covered in this week's show are at

Kerri Smith: Next week, making electronic circuits from organic building blocks and free loading fish among other goodies. I'm Kerri Smith.

Adam Rutherford: And I'm Adam Rutherford. We are your noble servants.


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