British scientist John Gurdon and Japan’s Shinya Yamanaka were announced as the winners of this year’s Nobel Prize for medicine today and will share the prize of 8 million Swedish crowns. Cambridge University’s John Gurdon won for showing that adult cells contain all the genetic information necessary to create every tissue in the body. That work set the stage for Shinya Yamanaka, who demonstrated that a relatively simple process could convert adult cells into embryonic stem cells.
That development is already opening new avenues of research, and it holds the promise of new ways to repair tissues damaged by injury or disease and also makes it possible for same-sex couples to conceive a child together. According to the Nobel Assembly at Sweden’s Karolinska Institute, Gurdon and Yamanaka have re-written the textbooks.
“These ground-breaking discoveries have completely changed our view of the development and specialisation of cells. We now understand that the mature cell does not have to be confined forever to its specialised state. Textbooks have been rewritten and new research fields have been established. By reprogramming human cells, scientists have created new opportunities to study diseases and develop methods for diagnosis and therapy,” a statement from the Nobel Assembly says.