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Nobel prize for medicine und physiology 1991
|Year of election:||1998|
|Section:||Genetics/Molecular Biology and Cell Biology|
Erwin Neher is known for the proof of the ion channel concept in biological membranes. Together with Bert Sakmann he developed the patch clamp technique, which for the first time allowed to record discrete steps in membrane current representing the opening and closing of individual ion channels. This discovery in 1976 represents the first example for visualizing conformational changes of single biological macromolecules. It initiated an explosion in ion channel research, since the very sensitive tools, developed by Neher & Sakmann, revealed that hundreds of different types of ion channels subserve a multitude of regulatory functions in both animal and plant cells. After 1985 Erwin Neher concentrated on signaling mechanisms at the cellular level. He studied [Ca++]-signals in single cells and developed methods to assay neurotransmitter and hormone release from single cells. In particular, he used the measurement of membrane capacitance to assay exocytosis in combination with fluorimetric [Ca++] measurement and stimulation of cells by photolytic release of [Ca++] from caged-[Ca++] compounds. This way, he and his collaborators were able to establish quantitative relationships between the rate of exocytosis and [Ca++] in various secretory cell types. He was awarded the Nobel Prize for Medicine together with Bert Sakmann in 1991.
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