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EU-funded researcher assisted Nobel Laureate James Rothman
Dr. Abdou Rachid Thiam (left) and Cells under microscope (right)
8 October

Dr. Abdou Rachid Thiam, a French researcher supported by an IOF, an EU grant managed by the REA, has been part of Nobel Laureate James E. Rothman's team over the last two and a half years. Prof. Rothman has received the Nobel Prize for medicine and physiology, awarded yesterday to three researchers, after discovering how cells precisely transport material.

The scientists' discoveries of ‘machinery regulating vesicle traffic’, a major transport system in our cells, are considered crucial to understand the way the brain communicates, the release of hormones and parts of the immune system.

The fellow, a Postdoc Associate at the Rothman Laboratory in the Cell Biology Department of Yale School of Medicine in the US since March 2011, is funded by the ‘Marie Curie Actions’, an EU research fund, from April 2012 to March 2014.

He is studying the biophysical properties of cell ‘lipid droplets’, fat reservoirs intended to supply lipids as a cell energy source when needed and to avoid abnormal regulation of fat leading to obesity and other multiple diseases.

This acute regulation of the lipids strongly relies on the vesicular machinery component discovered by Professor Rothman.

The fellow has been forming microfluid-based emulsions and seeing how specific cell proteins respond.

Dr. Abdou Rachid Thiam (left) and Cells under microscope (right)

Dr. Abdou Rachid Thiam (left) and Cells under microscope (right)

Prof. Rothman has received this year’s Nobel Prize because he found proteins embedded in cells vesicles which act as the docking mechanism meaning the cargo (molecules such as hormones and enzymes) is released in the correct location as it moves around cells.

James Rothman shared the award, announced yesterday by the Academy, with Randy Schekman and Thomas Sudhof. Their discoveries have been key to understand the way vesicles act like a fleet of ships transporting their goods to the exact cell destination.

A defective vesicle transport system is implicated in diabetes and brain disorders.

Abdou Rachid Thiam is currently on his fellowship’s outgoing phase. The return host, back in Europe, is France’s National Centre of Scientific Research, the CNRS.