The Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine 2012 was awarded jointly to Sir John B. Gurdon and Shinya Yamanaka “for the discovery that mature cells can be reprogrammed to become pluripotent”.
Gurdon and Yamanaka have developed a process in nuclear reprogramming that instructs adult cells to form early stem cells which can then be used to form any tissue type.
Like embryonic stem cells, iPS cells are also capable of developing into any cell in the body, but crucially their source material is readily available.
“John B. Gurdon challenged the dogma that the specialized cell is irreversibly committed to its fate,” the assembly said in a statement. “Shinya Yamanaka discovered more than 40 years later, in 2006, how intact mature cells in mice could be reprogrammed to become immature stem cells.”
The Nobel Assembly at Stockholm’s Karolinska Institute in Sweden, said Gurdon and Yamanaka had “revolutionised our understanding of how cells and organisms develop”.
For Julian Savulescu, Uehiro professor of practical ethics at Oxford University, the researchers’ work deserved particular praise because reprogramed cells overcome the moral concerns that surrounded research on embryonic stem cells.
“This is not only a giant leap for science, it is a giant leap for mankind. Yamanaka and Gurdon have shown how science can be done ethically. Yamanaka has taken people’s ethical concerns seriously about embryo research and modified the trajectory of research into a path that is acceptable for all. He deserves not only a Nobel prize for medicine, but a Nobel prize for ethics.”
Sir John B. Gurdon: Affiliation at the time of the award: Gurdon Institute, Cambridge, United Kingdom
Shinya Yamanaka, Affiliation at the time of the award: Kyoto University, Kyoto, Japan, Gladstone Institute, San Francisco, CA, USA
Link to Nobel Prize 2012 site