Vilcek Prizes honor immigrant scientists for outstanding contributions to biomedical science
Ahmet Yildiz has used his expertise in visualizing molecules found in living cells to uncover the precise mode of action of molecular motors, which are proteins that ferry cargo along the cellular backbone to support vital functions like neuronal development and cell division. Visualizing the stepwise movement of these motors—kinesins, myosins, and dyneins—along cellular scaffolding had long remained technically challenging. Yildiz developed a technique to localize fluorescent dyes within cells at 1 nanometer resolution, surmounting the challenge and imaging the march of molecular motors on cellular tracks. In related work, Yildiz used super-resolution microscopy techniques to suggest how a protein complex called shelterin protects the ends of chromosomes from the deleterious action of DNA repair enzymes. Because damage to chromosome ends has been tied to premature aging and cancer, Yildiz’s findings may yield clinically relevant targets for the treatment of such diseases in the future. Yildiz, an associate professor at the University of California, Berkeley, was born near Istanbul, Turkey.