The Nobel Committee awarded this year’s prize in Physiology or Medicine to John Gurdon, of the University of Cambridge, UK, and Shinya Yamanka, of the University of Kyoto, Japan, for “for the discovery that mature cells can be reprogrammed to become pluripotent”, this morning in Stockholm.
Working with frog eggs, Gurdon showed that the nucleus from a mature cell could be transplanted into an egg cell with its nucleus removed and produce a living frog. The technique, called somatic cell nuclear transfer, is often called cloning and it was used to produce Dolly the sheep. His work revolutionized the understanding of developmental biology and cell fate, showing that a genome contains all the information needed to transform a cell into a whole organism.
Yamanaka, on the other hand, showed that whole mammalian adult cells could be reverted into an embryonic-like state by treating them with a cocktail of protein factors. These induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) are similar to embryonic stem cells that give rise to every tissue in the body. He achieved the feat first in mouse cells, and later with human cells. It is hoped that iPSC cells, transformed into myriad cell types, will be useful for regenerative medicine and drug testing.
A group led by James Thomson, of the University of Wisconsin–Madison, was also among those to report the first human iPSCs in 2007.
According to Google Scholar, Yamanaka’s 2006 publication describing mouse iPSCs has been cited more than 6,000 times, and his report on human iPSCs has garnered nearly
4,000 5,000 citations.
UPDATE – full story here.
Images courtesy Gurdon Institute, University of Cambridge, and University of California, San Francisco.