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Research into Cell Gatekeepers Wins Chemistry Nobel

Two American scientists share this year's Nobel Prize in Chemistry for work that helps explain how water and other substances move in and out of living cells.

Living cells couldn't exist if they didn't have the ability to accumulate material like nutrients and to control the flow of water. Peter Agre at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine wondered just how water gets into and out of cells. He discovered a molecule that's a gatekeeper for water -- it lets only water in and out of the cell.

Roderick MacKinnon, a Howard Hughes Medical Institute scholar at the Rockefeller University, asked the same question about potassium and sodium. He solved a big mystery: how a molecular pore lets in big potassium ions but holds out small sodium ions. This, in turn, controls everything from brain activity to kidney function. The two will share the prestige of the Nobel prize, along with $1.3 million. Hear NPR's Richard Harris.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Award-winning journalist Richard Harris has reported on a wide range of topics in science, medicine and the environment since he joined NPR in 1986. In early 2014, his focus shifted from an emphasis on climate change and the environment to biomedical research.