Günter Blobel, who won the 1999 Nobel Prize in Medicine or Physiology, has died, the New York Times reports. He was 81.
Blobel won the Nobel for showing "proteins have intrinsic signals that govern their transport and localization in the cell," according to the Nobel committee. The Times adds that Blobel, working at Rockefeller University, set out to determine how cells in the human body could direct billions of proteins to where they ought to be within the cell itself or within the human body. He and his colleague David Sabatini proposed the idea that proteins harbor a series of signals akin to a ZIP code that tell them where to go, it adds. Blobel identified these signals as amino acid chains and found they directed proteins to particular cellular membranes where they either became embedded or passed through, Rockefeller University adds.
It notes that Blobel's work united the fields of molecular and cellular biology. The Times adds that his work has also helped researchers and clinicians better understand a number of diseases.
"Günter was a towering figure in the scientific community who made fundamental contributions to our understanding of the most basic processes that underlie life on our planet," says Richard Lifton, the president of Rockefeller, in a statement. "His work revolutionized cell biology, demonstrating that seemingly impenetrable problems could be understood in molecular detail."