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Main research interests: Pathogenetic mechanisms of diseases, malignancies and neurodegenerative disorders, ubiquitin-mediated protein degradation
Aaron Ciechanover is a biochemist and physician. In 2004 he got the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for his discovery of ubiquitin-mediated protein degradation.
As a graduate student with Avram Hershko and in collaboration with Irwin A. Rose from the Fox Chase Cancer Center in Philadelphia, USA, they discovered that covalent attachment of ubiquitin to a target protein signals it for degradation. They deciphered the mechanism of conjugation, described the general proteolytic functions of the system, and proposed a model according to which this modification serves as a recognition signal for a specific downstream protease. As a post-doctoral fellow with Harvey Lodish at the M.I.T., he continued his studies on the ubiquitin system and made additional important discoveries.
Along the years it has become clear that ubiquitin-mediated proteolysis plays major roles in numerous cellular processes, and aberrations in the system underlie the pathogenetic mechanisms of many diseases, among them certain malignancies and neurodegenerative disorders. Consequently, the system has become an important platform for drug development.