Gordon, Greenberg and Bassler win the 2023 Princess of Asturias Award for Science

American biologists Jeffrey I. Gordon and Peter Greenberg and American biochemist Bonnie L. Bassler have been awarded the 2023 Princess of Asturias Award for Scientific and Technical Research, as announced today by the jury in charge of granting it.

Jeffrey Gordon has been ppioneer in the discovery and understanding of the human microbiomethat is, the immense quantity and diversity of microorganisms that live in the body, with an essential role in health, including metabolism, immune response and nutrition.

Peter Greenberg and Bonnie Lynn Bassler have unveiled unprecedented communication mechanisms between bacteriawhich emit chemical signals that modulate their collective behavior.

“Both discoveries are allowing innovative therapeutic applications and the search for new effective treatments against bacteria resistant to antibiotics”, states the jury’s minutes.

Regarding Gordon’s work, he highlights the use of transgenic mice to demonstrate that the differentiation of intestinal epithelial cells was conditioned by environmental cues and? Bacteroides thetaiotaomicron, it is responsible for the production of polysaccharides in the cells of the intestine.

Gordon thus demonstrated the importance of relationships of exchange of nutrients between the microbiota and the host. He promoted the Human Microbiome Project, which has made it possible to estimate the species that make up the microbiota at around 10,000 and to sequence the genome of more than a hundred of them so far.

Later he focused on the role of the microbiome in the development of diseases such as obesity and diabetes, offering a new approach in the treatment of malnutrition in children and its developmental consequences, which depend not only on diet but also on the acquisition of a healthy microbiome. Thus, proposes microbiota transplants as an innovative treatment to improve the nutritional status of populations.

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Bonnie Bassler and Everett Peter Greenberg are pioneers in the study of communication between bacteria through the emission of certain substances, and how the formation of large groups generates a different behavior than when they are isolated. This is what is called quorum sensing (a term coined by Greenberg in a 1994 scientific article).

Building on some previous publications of the phenomenon, Bassler and Greenberg separately contributed to understand it and demonstrate its mechanism.

Bacterial communication is important as part of the microbiota of our organism and for its role in infections, in which there is a stage of low activity until a large group is formed, as if they were waiting to accumulate forces, and then they carry out a massive attack on the organism.

Photo: Princess of Asturias Foundation

From this phenomenon, are developing antagonistic molecules of those substances to interfere with communication as a possible antimicrobial pathway for antibiotic-resistant bacteria, whose efficacy in mice has already been demonstrated in the laboratory.

The jury for this Award –convened by the Princess of Asturias Foundation– was chaired by Pedro Miguel Echenique Landiribar and integrated by Jesús del Álamo, Alberto Aparici Benages, Juan Luis Arsuaga Ferreras, Avelino Corma Canós, Miguel Delibes de Castro, Sandra Myrna Díaz, Clara Grima Ruiz, Bernardo Hernández González, Jerónimo López Martínez, Inmaculada Martínez Rubio, Amador Menéndez Velázquez, Concepción Alicia Monje Micharet, Ginés Morata Pérez, Inés Rodríguez Hidalgo, María Teresa Telleria Jorge, María Vallet Regí, María Paz Zorzano Mier and Cristina Garmendia Mendizábal (secretary).

This candidacy has been proposed by Philip L. Felgner, Princess of Asturias Award for Scientific and Technical Research 2021.

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The Princess of Asturias Awards are intended, according to its Regulations, to award “scientific, technical, cultural, social and humanitarian work carried out by persons, institutions, groups of persons or institutions in the international sphere”.

In accordance with these principles, the Princess of Asturias Award for Scientific and Technical Research is awarded to the “work of cultivation and improvement of research, discovery and / or invention in mathematics, astronomy and astrophysics, physics, chemistry, life sciences, medical sciences, Earth and space sciences, and technological sciences, as well as the disciplines corresponding to each of these fields and related techniques.

In this edition, a total of 40 applications from 16 nationalities.

This is the seventh of the eight Princess of Asturias Awards granted this year, in which they celebrate their forty-third edition. Previously, the Princess of Asturias Award for the Arts was awarded to the American actress meryl streepthe Communication and Humanities award to the Italian professor, writer and philosopher Nuccio Ordinethat of Social Sciences to the French historian Hélène Carrère d’Encaussethe one from Sports to the Kenyan athlete Eliud Kipchoge, the one of letters to the japanese writer Haruki Murakami and the International Cooperation to Medicines for Neglected Diseases Initiative. Next week the Princess of Asturias Award for Concord will be awarded.

The Princess of Asturias Awards ceremony will be held in October. Each Princess of Asturias award is endowed with a sculpture by Joan Miró – a representative symbol of the award -, an accrediting diploma, an insignia and the amount in cash of fifty thousand euros.

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