Autism researcher wins Nobel Prize

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Thomas Südhof has been awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine. The work of the Stanford University academic is credited with advancing our understanding of brain chemistry relating to autism.

The honour was awarded jointly to Dr Südhof and two former Stanford colleagues, Professor Randy Schekman, now of University of California at Berkeley, and Yale University Professor James Rothman. The team were praised as generous and collaborative researchers.

Südhof was recognized for his role in discovering the machinery that regulates vesicle traffic, a major transport system within our cells. In particular, he received the award for his research in exploring how neurons in the brain communicate with one another across gaps called synapses.

“We’d like to understand how synapse communication leads to learning on a larger scale,” he said the morning the award was announced. “How are the specific connections established? How do they form? And what happens in schizophrenia and autism when these connections are compromised?”

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