Stockholm: US researchers William Kaelin and Gregg Semenza and Britain's Peter Ratcliffe on Monday shared the Nobel Medicine Prize for discoveries on how cells sense and adapt when oxygen levels drop.
The Swedish Academy said the fundamental importance of oxygen has been understood for centuries, but how cells adapt to changes in levels of oxygen has long been unknown.
"The trio established the basis for our understanding of how oxygen levels affect cellular metabolism and physiological function," the jury said. Their research has "paved the way for promising new strategies to fight anaemia, cancer and many other diseases."
The jury said the trio had identified molecular machinery that regulates the activity of genes in response to varying levels of oxygen, which is central to a large number of diseases.
"Intense ongoing efforts in academic laboratories and pharmaceutical companies are now focused on developing drugs that can interfere with different disease states by either activating, or blocking, the oxygen-sensing machinery," the jury said.
The three will share the Nobel prize sum of nine million Swedish kronor (about USD 914,000).
They will receive their prize from King Carl XVI Gustaf at a formal ceremony in Stockholm on December 10, the anniversary of the 1896 death of scientist Alfred Nobel who created the prizes in his last will and testament.