Nobel Prize awarded for regenerative medicine research

09 October 2012

Posted by Satvir Bhullar

The 2012 Nobel Prize for medicine and physiology has been awarded to two scientists specializing in stem cell research.

British expert Sir John Gurdon and Japanese researcher Shinya Yamanaka were able to reprogram adult cells into stem cells, which can then transform into any other cells in the body.

He was the first person to clone an animal from a single cell, in spite of his science teacher suggesting when he was 15 that he should not study the subject.

The 79-year-old Cambridge University scientist was selected for his 1962 discovery that the specialization of cells can be reversed and modified the cell nucleus of a frog egg so that it developed into a normal tadpole.

According to the Nobel Assembly, the prize was jointly awarded "for the discovery that mature cells can be reprogrammed to become pluripotent", adding that the findings of the two researchers have "revolutionized our understanding of how cells and organisms develop".

In 2006, more than 40 years after Sir John's discovery, Shinya Yamanaka discovered a way of reprogramming adult cells in mice to become pluripotent stem cells, providing new opportunities to study diseases and develop medical breakthroughs.

He and his team were able to discover a combination in which genes could be introduced into mature cells in order to reprogram fibroblasts into immature stem cells.

Following on from the research by the Nobel prize winners, scientists in the US are looking at ways of using regenerative medicine to create human sperm that could be employed in reproductive processes.

They are also hoping their research will lead to the development of eggs using stem cells within the next five years in order to provide a solution to human infertility.

The claims made by Dr Renee Pera, of Stanford University to the BBC come after experts in Japan created eggs using stem cells from mice, which were than fertilized and produced healthy baby mice.

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