Monday, January 19, 2009

JJNN Monday: Science - 13

Welcome again to JJNN for Monday January 19th, 2009. Today we will be talking about the Crafoord Prize.

What's that? You have never heard of the Crafoord prize? Well there is a good reason for that. It is over-shadowed by its bigger and stronger cousin the Nobel prize. The Nobel Prize and the Crafoord Prize are both given out by the same group of people, The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences. They also have other prizes like Gregori Aminoff Prize in crystallography and The Rolf Schocks Prizes in math and arts, just to name a few. All the other prizes were created to compliment the Nobel Prize. Compliment is another way of saying filling in the gaps of the Nobel Prize by adding categories that are not in the original prize.

The Crafoord Prize has categories for astronomy, math, geoscience, and biosciences. The bioscience part of the award is divided into ecological prizes and prizes that have to do with rheumatoid arthritis. Why rheumatoid arthritis? Well that is because the person who established the prize, Holger Crafood, had rheumatoid arthritis. I guess it is always good to give money to people that are helping to cure something that you are afflicted with.

So, what does this have to do with Japan? Well this year two of the winners of the Crafoord Prize are from Japan. Their names are Kishimoto Tadamitsu and Hirano Toshio. They worked together in a research group from Osaka University to help isolate things called interleukins. So what are interleukins and what do they have to do with rheumatoid arthritis? Well interleukins are a type of molecule that is used by the immune system to communicate with different places though out the body. It is used to call white blood cells, but it can also be used to do other things like signal the body to start making antibodies and causes inflammation and fevers. I know these do not seem good, but in the end these things help us all live. The problem is when these interleukins are released in great abundance when they should not be. This happens in the case of rheumatoid arthritis. The interleukins are released and the body tells the white blood cells to start attacking the joints. People like Kishimoto Tadamitsu and Hirano Toshio helped discover the connection with interleukins and rheumatoid arthritis and helped find ways for people to deal with the terrible disease.

Any way, it is now time for the word of the day. Today's word is 関節リウマチ(かんせつりうまち). It is pronounced kansetsu riumachi and means rheumatoid arthritis. I can't imagine how much it must hurt to have your own immune system eating away at your joints. This is something I would never wish on anyone.

That's it for today. See you next time at JJNN.

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