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US scientists share Nobel Prize for chemistry

The 2012 Nobel Prize in the field of chemistry has been announced. The winners are two chemists from the United States.

The 2012 Nobel Prize in chemistry has been awarded to two American scientists, Brian K. Kobilka (pictured right) and Robert J. Lefkowitz (pictured left). They received the award for their innovative work on G-protein-coupled receptors.

The receptors they studied permitted each cell to detect its own environment. Their work demonstrates how cells in the body respond to stimuli such as an adrenalin rush.

The prize committee has deemed their study as groundbreaking, saying it will assist the development of more effective drugs.

"Around half of all medications act through these receptors, among them beta blockers, antihistamines and various kinds of psychiatric medications," the committee said.

Lefkowitz told a news conference Wednesday that he was totally taken aback when he received a late-night call from Sweden to congratulate him on becoming a Nobel laureate.

"I did not hear it - I must share with you that I wear earplugs to sleep. So my wife gave me an elbow. So there it was, a total shock and surprise," he said.

This announcement marks the final Nobel science award before moving on to literature and peace. The two researchers will share 8 million crowns ($1.2 million), the prize fund attached to each of this year's Nobel prizes and distributed by the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences.

The week of Nobel announcements began on Monday with the medicine prize going to stem cell pioneers John Gurdon of the UK and Japan's Shinya Yamanaka. On Tuesday, Frenchman Serge Haroche and American David Wineland won the physics prize for their work on quantum particles.

Brian K. Kobilka is a professor in the departments of Molecular and Cellular Physiology and Medicine at Stanford University School of Medicine in the United States.

Robert J. Lefkowitz is the director of a Duke University Medical Center research program, which is dedicated to studies of receptor biology and signal transduction.

Since the Nobel Prize was established in 1901 the total number of chemistry recipients has reached 163. Last year the chemistry prize was awarded to Israeli Dan Shechtman for his discovery of quasicrystals.

cg/mz (Reuters, dpa, AP)