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British scientist wins Nobel Prize for medicine

Britain's Sir John Gurdon wins Nobel Prize for work on stem cells

Ingrid Torjesen

Monday, 08 October 2012

Britain's Sir John Gurdon and Shinya Yamanaka of Japan have won the 2012 Nobel Prize for medicine.

Stockholm's Karolinska Institute have awarded the pair the prize for their research into nuclear reprogramming, a process that instructs adult cells to form early stem cells which can then be used to form any tissue type.

Sir John discovered in 1962 that the specialisation of cells is reversible. In a classic experiment, he replaced the immature cell nucleus in an egg cell of a frog with the nucleus from a mature intestinal cell. This modified egg cell developed into a normal tadpole. The DNA of the mature cell still had all the information needed to develop all cells in the frog.

More than 40 years later Professor Yamanaka discovered how intact mature cells in mice could be reprogrammed to become immature stem cells. By introducing a few genes, he reprogrammed mature cells to become pluripotent stem cells, i.e. immature cells that are able to develop into all types of cells in the body.

Sir John is currently at the Gurdon Institute in Cambridge, while Prof Yamanaka is a professor at Kyoto University in Japan.

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