Sunday, September 23

UCLA alumnus, Nobel laureate speaks on cells, open-access research


(Daily Bruin file photo)

(Daily Bruin file photo)


A UCLA alumnus and Nobel laureate shared his latest research on RNA sorting into exosomes at a seminar Wednesday.

More than 250 people packed into an auditorium in Geffen Hall to listen to Randy Schekman, who shared the 2013 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for discovering a set of genes required for intracellular transportation of molecules in sacs called vesicles. At the seminar, Schekman spoke about his lab’s research on exosomes, which are vesicles released by cells, and his support of publicly accessible research.

Exosomes contain materials that some researchers believe might convey messages from one cell to another, he said. For example, cancer cells could secrete exosomes to promote cell and blood vessel growth, which facilitate tumor progression.

Schekman said his lab at UC Berkeley has developed a method to better isolate exosomes from cells to examine their contents. The researchers found that some RNA molecules are hundreds or thousands of times more concentrated in exosomes than in the cells they come from.

He said this suggests cells have a way to sort specific RNA molecules into exosomes, and his lab has found factors, such as proteins, that cells require to package these molecules.

Schekman, who received his bachelor’s degree in molecular biology from UCLA in 1971, began his seminar by displaying his letter of admission on the projector. He said he had an opportunity to join a research laboratory in his freshman year.

“It was one of the most precious letters that I ever received because I had an amazing experience as an undergraduate here,” Schekman said. “(Public higher education) is an investment by the people of the state of California that must continue to be renewed.”

Schekman added he is currently the editor of eLife, an open-access scientific journal, and supports research that anyone can access without paying a subscription fee. He said he thinks more researchers should focus on publishing their work quickly rather than publishing in mainstream journals.

“I’ve challenged the hegemony of the so-called high impact journals (such as) Cell, Nature and Science,” he said. “I’ve had people tell me proudly that after four years they finally had a paper published in Cell. Whose interest does that serve?”

Schekman said he thinks the editors of popular journals are employed to sell magazines. He added he thinks researchers should instead publish in journals run by scholars that are less commercially focused.

“It’s better to publish in journals that are run by active scholars who have a hand in the review and the decision (whether to publish the research), and where the decision can be made more expeditiously,” he said.

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