Breathe deeply now!

Breathe in, breathe out. Breathe in, breathe out. Around 12 to 18 Times per Minute, breathing in an adult and usually without thinking about it. The objective of the maneuver: to bring oxygen to the trillions of cells in the body.

On breathing the breathing follows in the Small, cellular respiration, called. It ensures that cells from food and oxygen to energy – what is the basis for this is that the body works as a Whole.

However, cells do not breathe. They also sense how much oxygen you have available and adjust accordingly.

How this mechanism works fundamentally, have explored the two Americans, William Kaelin and Gregg Semenza and Briton Peter Ratcliffe. For their work the three to be honored with the Nobel prize for physiology or medicine in 2019.

Oxygen sensors in the cell

Cells have to come back again and again with alternating oxygen supply clear, not only in the case of illness, but also, for example in sports or in the mountains.

Gregg Semenza of Johns Hopkins Institute for Cell Engineering in Baltimore discovered that a Protein that serves as an oxygen sensor in the cells, the so-called HIF, the Hypoxia Inducible Factor.

Oxygen is abundant, if a cell contains hardly HIF. There is a lack of oxygen, increases the HIF-lot, which in turn influences the activity of genes in the cell.

Why varies the HIF-concentration? In the meantime, we know that the cell turning a wasteful-seeming, but still sophisticated process. It produces constantly new HIF molecules and builds them just as steadily. However, the disposal only works if oxygen is present. For this reason, HIF accumulates in a lack of oxygen in the cells.

William Kaelin of Harvard Medical School in Boston conducted research on the Protein VHL, which is associated with cancer, and also depending on the oxygen content is more or less active. Peter Ratcliffe found out that there is a connection between HIF and VHL is. Ratcliffe is the Director for clinical research at the Francis Crick Institute in London and at the Target Discovery Institute at Oxford.

Hope for a cure

Because the oxygen supply plays in many diseases a role, it is hoped that the Work of Ratcliffe, Kaelin and Semenza contribute to the development of new therapies for anemia, wound healing, or even cancer.

To strengthen the Effect of HIF, can stimulate the formation of red blood cells. Drugs against anemia, based ultimately on the work of the three Nobel prize winners, are already being tested in clinical trials.

The hope is that the findings will help to develop new therapies against several forms of cancer. The appropriate medication would do the opposite of what makes a remedy against anemia: you would not support HIF, but block. This could counteract, among other things, the formation of new blood vessels that tumors need to grow. Until the development of such resources, however, it is still a long way and it is quite possible that this approach delivers no new cancer drugs.

However, even if this year’s Nobel prize does not bring the key to the healing of cancer, he has provided important insights into how the cells of the body to feel whether you have enough oxygen. In this sense: breathe in, breathe out.