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How does Cell Machinery Sense and Deal with Hypoxia? The 2019 Nobel Prize for Medicine

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The Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for the year 2019 has been awarded to three scientists, namely William G Kaelin, Gregg Semenza and Peter J Ratcliffe, for their research work leading to an understanding of the mechanism used by living cells to sense the level of O2. They discovered the occurrence of a molecule called hypoxia-inducible factor (HIF) within the cells and demonstrated that under normoxic condition, HIF undergoes hydroxylation and ubiquitination followed by its degradation in proteasome. Under conditions of hypoxia, HIF becomes active and binds to hypoxia response element available within hundreds of target genes leading to their activation to overcome the problems due to hypoxia. Any aberration in this process of degradation and activation of HIF may cause a variety of diseases, so drugs based on BIF stabilizers/inhibitors have been developed and are under different stages of clinical trials.

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Significance statement The 2019 Nobel Prize for Medicine has been awarded for the discovery of hypoxia-inducible factor, which gets degraded under normoxic conditions, but activates several genes during hypoxia. This resulted in development of drugs for human diseases.

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Gupta, P.K. How does Cell Machinery Sense and Deal with Hypoxia? The 2019 Nobel Prize for Medicine. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci., India, Sect. B Biol. Sci. 90, 945–950 (2020).

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