Princess of Asturias Prize for Science for the Microbiome

Princess of Asturias Award

It has been awarded to Jeffrey I. Gordon, Peter Greenberg, and American biochemist Bonnie L. Passler.

The year 2020, which is synonymous with the pandemic, showed the importance of science and the joint action of scientists. The development, in record time, of the first vaccines against the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus, which causes the COVID-19 pandemic, is a case in point. It is not strange that The prestigious Princess of Asturias Award 2021 will be awarded to those responsible for those vaccines. Among them was Philip Felgner, who this year nominated American biologists Jeffrey I. Gordon and Peter Greenberg and American biochemist Bonnie L. Passler for this year’s prize in the 2023 Scientific and Technical Research Area and turned out to be the winner. This year’s focus is on the microbiome.

The jury for this award – convened by the Princess of Asturias Foundation – was chaired by Pedro Miguel Iquinec Landíríbar and composed of Juan Luis Ursuaga Ferreras, Miguel Delibes de Castro and Clara Grima Ruiz, among others. In accordance with the statutes of the Foundation, the prize is awarded for “work Cultivation and refinement of researchand discovery and/or invention in mathematics, astronomy, astrophysics, physics, chemistry, life sciences, medical sciences, earth and space sciences, and technological sciences, as well as the disciplines corresponding to each of these fields and related technologies.”

Biologist Jeffrey I. Gordon was the one A pioneer in the study of the human microbiome, the collection of microorganisms that live in our gut (tens of billions: several times more than the total number of our cells) and their impact on human health: from digestion and metabolism (diabetes, obesity, malnutrition) to neurodevelopment and immunity in children and young adults. Gordon used transgenic mice to demonstrate that intestinal epithelial cell differentiation was conditioned by environmental indicators and that Bacteroides thetaiotamicron, responsible for the production of sugars in the cells of the intestine. Thus, he showed the importance of nutrient exchange relationships between the microorganism and the host. was too who promoted the Human Microbiome Project, which made it possible to estimate the species that make up the microorganisms at about 10,000 and to sequence the genomes of more than a hundred of them to date. Later he focused on the role of the microbiome in the development of diseases such as obesity and diabetes. One of Gordon’s most interesting proposals is culturing microorganisms as an innovative treatment for improving the nutritional status of populations.

Bonnie Bassler and Everett Peter Greenberg, for their part, are pioneers in the study of communication between bacteria through the emission of certain substances, and how the formation of large groups generates different behavior than when isolated. This is called quorum sensing (a term Greenberg coined in V study scientist from 1994). The key to this behavior is that Each bacterial species has its own molecule (language), thanks to this they recognize their own kind and know when there are others around them and tend to form a community (quorum) that regulates the expression of certain genes. They both also discovered that bioluminescent bacteria Vibrio Fisheri It only produced light when it formed large groups and its members coordinated through a chemical signal. But not only that… They also showed that bacteria can emit and receive other substances for communication between different species and that there is universal substance (the “Esperanto” of bacterial languages ​​so to speak).

Bacterial communication is important as part of the microbiota in our body because of its role in infection. From this phenomenon, molecules are developed to interfere with the contact between bacteria and thus Prevent or avoid infectionssomething that has already been demonstrated in the laboratory and could be a potential antimicrobial pathway for antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

Of the three laureates, they have more than 1,000 publications, dozens of patents, and their studies have been cited more than 350,000 times. In this edition, a total of 40 candidates from 16 nationalities competed for the Scientific and Technical Research Award.

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