[Azriel’s Late Post] Aquaporins Nobel Lecture

[Azriel’s Late Post] Aquaporins Nobel Lecture

Seri Azriel’s Late Post ini adalah kumpulan tulisan yang dibuat sebelum laman dikakipelangi ini diluncurkan, dan ditulis selama periode 2015 – 2017. Selamat menikmati 🙂



Foto Profesor Peter dari Laman Wikipedia beliau

At Wednesday, 22nd March I went to Sabuga because there is a Nobel Lecture from Professor Peter Agre, which is a Nobel winning biochemist. He won the nobel because he discovered Aquaporins, which he explains to be the plumbing system of your cells, more on that later. I registered for this seminar that I was excited for, 2 weeks before the D-Day.


Roughly 2 weeks before 22nd March I saw a promotion image for this seminar that I got from the HS Bandung Union group. A father of a friend of mine helped make the website for this seminar. I registered immediately and almost forgot about this event. Luckily I rechecked my images 5 days before this event and remembered its existence.

On the D-Day I was a bit late (30 minutes roughly, okay so not a bit, very late perhaps), and no it doesn’t really matter because I ended up queuing with less wait, because the gate only opened at 8.45 and I arrived at 8.30 with Arsyad, Afra (Arsyad’s older sister), Izzan, and Raka (who shared this event) queuing before me, so I would still end up on the same sitting spot even if I arrived early (These are one of those few moments where arriving late [compared to our expectation, not actual arrival time] is not a big deal). I got the second row because the first row’s central view is full, and I prefer getting a second or even third row that is close to the center.


Firstly, I got inside Sabuga at 9.00, however the event only started at 9.45. I used this time to Google and pre-search (I made this word; it’s a combination of Pre and Research). After getting a glimpse of Prof. Peter’s work and Aquaporins, a few people came with full uniforms? (Maybe Toga’s would fit too?) And sat on the stage. After listening to the choir standing on the left wing of the stage singing the ITB anthem, with Angklung from the right wing, Prof. Peter with 20-ish lecturers escorting him to the stage. Upon his arrival we sang the Indonesian National Anthem, Indonesia Raya.

After all that formality, there is still more speech before the lecture. ITB’s dean and head of science department gave a speech in English that is unclear due to the speaker blur, and accent from those 2. However I did catch a few words on not giving up at your dreams no matter how large though. The ITB Anthem is played again with angklung as well, and then the seminar starts. It started at 10.30 if I recall precisely.

Finally the lecture started. Prof. Peter starts by stating that water is the liquid of life, and without it, life cannot exist. After that Prof. Peter states that he wont explain about his work, because he said… “You can get that in many websites, so I don’t see any reason for me to explain it here” However he did explain that Aquaporins are the plumbing system of our cells, and closes if something with properties that is  not similar to water, but accelerates the flow of water. Now since he does not explain his work, exactly what did he explain? He explained how did he work to earn that Nobel.

Now like I said, he explained his work. He started by explaining that he was actually not looking into cells when he gathered his team, but he said that you might find what you are not looking for. Now I can’t really get 100% of what he is saying because once more, the speaker is blurry, and he speaks so fast, but I did hear him say that he was looking for diseases in some organ in the first place. When he saw a damaged cell, he took a closer look and he found that this damaged cell was in fact not flowing water as fast as normal cells. After discussion from this discovery, he and his team decided to take a leap of faith and study how cells process water.

After finding the basic plumbing system, he tried to classify it onto detail and he saw how cells in different organs work differently. Once classified, Prof. Peter and his team tries to see these specific parts of some cells and classified them onto Aqp1, Aqp2, and so on,  until Aqp6. 1 week after the discovery and publishing of his work. When he woke up in his lab if I recall precisely he actually sleeps in his lab when he and his team was working above 23.00) with the purpose of locating the disease that he was looking into before jumping onto aquaporins, he received a call from an unknown number and before even getting cleaned up, he heard “Good Morning Professor Agre, congratulations, you just won a Nobel prize, the conference will begin at 1.00 P.M.” (and he shared his reaction which I believe was like… “What?”) that was 10.00 in the morning. So he rushed home and cleaned himself up with some proper clothing and took his family and received the Nobel Prize that night. Upon receiving the Nobel, he actually thought that he has not succeeded because his main purpose of locating the disease is not complete. I think this is very humble, and should be taken example.

He followed with some history of his discovery. He started explaining that some other scientists a few decades before him have indeed known about the fact that water flows through cells faster than other fluids, but no one seems to be able to pinpoint why. He said that these previous theories include water’s unique property interaction with cells, but despite H20 has some unique properties, (such as Water Anomaly) there is no theory strong enough to back this anomaly up, which leads to a theory failure.

After all that is done, he decided that there is still time for him to explain more about Aquaporins. But, the speaker volume is still blurry, so I can only remember and listen, at the function of certain Aquaporins. I can’t remember its precise numbering, but we have Aquaporins on our blood cells, kidney, digestion system, and if I recall even our Brain has some. Prof. Peter also explained that the failure of these blood cells is not lethal, but can make some non-lethal things lethal, such as a common diarrhea can lead to very painful moments, even death. You would also need about twice drinking water values if you happen to have this condition, because waterflow with this condition is just terrible.

After this is done, comes the question session, which I am still slightly annoyed and disappointed until now. However I will still explain some questions that I remembered. Now this session is separated onto 2, one is for students, and the other is for scientists. With 3 people asking as many questions each. I remembered a scientist asking about how much fame Prof. Peter has achieved and has that accomplished his goal of fame. Prof. Peter. answered that he does not need fame, or pictures of him in lots of banners in the U.S. (on his way to Sabuga he saw several banners of his face) he doesn’t even feel like he needed to win that Nobel, as long as he can make people around him happy. He also said that his 2 granddaughters don’t know about the Nobel, but they do know about him being a nice guy and likes to buy ice cream for them. I like Prof. Peter because he is very humble. I cant remember other questions because I am still sad at how I don’t get to ask, but I guess that’s life. Also I was planning to ask, some questions about Aquaporins that I cant remember because I didn’t ask them, and how his team feels about Prof. Peter getting the Nobel.

After the 3rd time of the ITB song being sung, the event has officially ended with all of the lecturers escorting Prof. Peter outside.

I feel honoured to hear Prof. Peter’s lecture and his humility. I am also amazed at his consistency at working, and just sees an award as a bonus, not a goal. I would actually love to ask, unfortunately I didn’t get a chance to make Prof. Peter remember that 14 year old asking him a question. But its ok, I’ll get my chance to ask in next year’s (or 2-3 years from now) Nobel Lecture.

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