Two Bay Area scientists are to be congratulated for bringing yet another honor to Stanford University and UC Berkeley as they shared the 2013 Nobel Prize for medicine.
Berkeley researcher Randy Schekman and Stanford's Thomas Südhof shared the prize with Yale University professor James Rothman for their extensive body of work in the biology of cells.
While working independently and spanning several decades, their discoveries have led to much greater collective understanding of how hormones, enzymes and other key substances are transported within cells.
Their work has explained how tiny bubbles -- called vesicles -- within the cells can carry substances in an organized and efficient manner, which allows for those substances to be delivered to the right place at the right time.
It has been groundbreaking work that offered insight about and understanding of the processes within the cells.
But let's be honest here, most of what these researchers have discovered is not exactly dinner-table discussion for most of us because we don't really understand the implications.
Those implications might be better understood in homes where someone in the family is suffering from severe epilepsy, diabetes or immune deficiency diseases. At those dinner tables this research has been important because the discoveries have helped doctors properly diagnose such diseases.
More important, scientists believe that this research could lead to medicines that will fight against more common types of epilepsy, diabetes and other metabolism deficiencies.
That would be an enormous contribution to society that likely would not be possible without the contributions of Schekman, Südhof and Rothman.
Jeremy Berg, director of the Institute for Personalized Medicine at the University of Pittsburgh, told The Associated Press that the scientists' work provided the intellectual framework scientists use to study how brain cells communicate and how other cells release hormones and that the work has indirectly affected research into virtually all neurological disease as well as other diseases.
Ironically, Rothman said that he had lost funding for the work that earned the prize, but that he now intended to reapply for another grant.
Although we do not pretend to be experts in grant funding, somehow we think that his chances of a new grant have improved greatly.
The Bay Area has so much scientific talent that we may have a tendency to become jaded about such awards. But we should not take something like this for granted; it is a spectacular achievement that should be celebrated with gusto.
We offer our congratulations on a job well done to the researchers and the outstanding Bay Area universities that they represent.