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September 26, 2009

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Candidates line up for Nobel prize shortlist

SCIENTISTS who discovered the secrets of how cells age, who made efficient solar cells possible and who figured out how to watch the brain work in real time are all leading contenders for Nobel prizes, researchers predicted.

Researchers at the Healthcare and Science business of Thomson Reuters also named scientists who figured out how certain messages are carried in cells and made quantum computers possible and economists specializing in monetary policy.

Nobel contenders include Elizabeth Blackburn of the University of California San Francisco, who helped discover telomeres, the little caps on the end of chromosomes whose natural fraying underlies aging and cancer.

"It has Nobel Prize written all over it," said Thomson's David Pendlebury, who makes the predictions each year.

Pendlebury's team named Seiji Ogawa of the Hamano Life Science Research Foundation in Tokyo for discoveries leading to functional magnetic resonance imaging or fMRI, now widely used in science from simple psychology to neurology.

Michael Gratzel of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology was named for the chemistry prize for inventing dye-sensitized solar cells, known as Gratzel cells.

Physics contenders include John Pendry of Imperial College of Science and Technology in London, Sheldon Schultz of the University of California San Diego and David Smith of Duke University, whose work using negative refraction led to meta-materials, used to make "invisibility cloaks" to deflect various wavelengths of electromagnetic radiation.

Juan Ignacio Cirac of the Max Planck Institute for Quantum Optics in Garching, Germany, and colleagues are noted for work that makes possible quantum computers, very fast computers that use weird qualities such as the ability of a particle to be in two states at once.

For economics, Pendlebury favors Ernst Fehr of the University of Zurich for behavioral economics.

Last year, Thomson correctly predicted one of the chemistry winners, Roger Tsien, whose work led to the widespread use of a green-glowing jellyfish protein.


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