Competitive Exams: Current Affairs 2011: Nobel Prizes-2010

Nobel Prizes-2010

Physiology or Medicine: (Robert G. Edwards)

  • This year s Nobel Prize for Medicine or Physiology has been awarded to Dr. Robert Edwards, Professor Emeritus at the University of Cambridge, UK for developing in vitro fertilization, considered as a breakthrough that has helped millions of infertile couples world wide to have children. In vitro fertilization (IVF) is a process in which an egg cell is removed, fertilized out side the female body by adding sperm cells and returned to the female for conceptions. Test Tube Baby:

  • As a result of their sustained efforts over more than a decade under such demanding conditions, on 25 July 1978 Louise Brown was born in Britain as the world s first IVF baby, heralding a revolution in infertility treatment.

  • Meanwhile, IVF has become the final solution, not only for women with fallopian tube problems such as endometriosis, scarring, blockages, etc which cannot be set right by surgical procedures, but also for male infertility caused by low sperm count or poor sperm quality. In such cases in single sperm cell may be selected for quality and transferred into an egg by a technique known as intracytoplasmic sperm injection.

  • Even with healthy couples with a family history of inherited disease and so at high risk of passing on to their offspring. IVF has served as a useful tool since the 1990s. In such cases the embryo can be screened for genetic defects before transfer.

  • India s and Asia's first and world s only second test tube baby was born in Kolkata on 3 October 1978. Her name is Durga or Kanupriya Agarwal. The man behind this pioneering efforts was Dr. Subhas Mukherjee, Professor of Physiology, Bankura Sammilani Medical College, Kolkata. Physics:

  • The 2010 Nobel Prize in Physics was awarded to Andre Geim and Konstantin Novoselov, both belonging to the University of Manchester, UK for discovering a two-dimensional allotrope of Carbon, which is now called Graphene.

  • The Nobel laureates have also shown that carbon in such a flat form has exceptional properties that can be predicated from the remarkable edifice of quantum physics. As a material it is completely new not only the thinnest ever but also the strongest.

  • Graphene is almost completely transparent, yet so dense that not even helium, the smallest gas atom, can pass through it. Its honeycomb crystal lattice gives the material especially unique electrical properties. The great mobility of electrons in grapheme allows for the creation of ultrafast electronic devices. This property is thought to be a result of graphene s a near-perfect atomic structure.

  • In addition to ultra-fast electronics, other potential applications include grapheme transistors, integrated circuits, transparent conducting electrodes, and many more yet to be explored. Graphene-based computers will sooner or later replace the silicon-based computers. Since it is practically transparent and a good conductor, graphene is suitable for producing transparent touch screens, light panels, LCD displays and maybe even highly efficient solar cells that can power small cars. Chemistry:

  • This years Nobel Prize in Chemistry has been awarded to Richard F. Heck, Ei-ichi-Negishi and Akira Suzuki for the development of palladium-catalysed cross-coupling in organic synthesis, a technique that achieves carbon-carbon, or C-C bonds, highly selectively and under relatively gentle conditions.

  • Carbon has only four electrons in its outermost layer and, therefore, it strives to attach to other atoms so that electrons can be shared between atoms in a molecule through chemical bonds. Methane, the simplest organic molecule, has a carbon atom sharing electrons with four hydrogen atoms, thus making the outer layer (orbital) full. To build complex organic molecules, chemists start with pre-existing smaller molecules; this is where the problem arises because in such molecules the carbon atoms are in stable configuration and, therefore, have little reactivity with other molecules. The question is how to make carbon atoms more reactive so that they combine with other carbon atoms.

  • The palladium-catalysed C-C bond forming reactions of Heck, Negishi and Suzuki have had a large impact in synthetic organic chemistry and have found many applications in target-oriented synthesis. A spectacular example of the use of palladium-catalysed cross-coupling reaction is in the test-tube creation of palytoxin a gigantic molecule in the chemical world. It is a naturally occurring poison that was first isolated from a coral in Hawaii in 1971.

  • These cross-coupling reactions have been applied in the synthesis of a large number of natural products and biologically active compounds with complex structures. They have also found applications in fine chemical and pharmaceutical industries.

Courtesy: The Hindu and Times of India