2012 Nobel Honors Cell-Reprogramming Research
On October the 8th, 2012 the Nobel Committee announced that researchers, John Gurdon and Shinya Yamanaka are being awarded the 2012 Medicine Nobel Prize.
In 1962 Gurdon’s research involving nucleus transplantation of a healthy adult tadpole intestinal cell to an embryo forever changed our view of adult cells. The embryo developed into a healthy tadpole and this showed that DNA contains all the information necessary to make an embryo.
Over four decades later, Yamanaka’s groundbreaking work has shown that only four genes are needed to turn any living adult cell into a stem cell. Through various experiments and tests involving insertion of gene bundles into skin cells he determined that by altering these four genes, he could turn any adult cell into a stem cell. This technique has since been used to turn human cells into embryonic cells, and even turn skin cells into heart or brain cells.
At the time of this discovery, there was no potential helpful application for this piece of science, but after giving it some time many potential applications have been found. It is hoped that when a few barriers, ethical and scientific, are overcome that this technique will be used in growing replacement cells and tissues for patients, and also in drug testing. (x)