2012-10-08 18:12:43

Scientists receive Nobel Prize for stem cell research

Alfred Nobel had an active interest in medical research and close links to the Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm, Sweden, who award the Nobel prize for physiology or medicine that is the third annual prize Nobel mentioned in his will.

In 1901, Emil von Behring was awarded the first Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for his work on serum therapy, particularly for its use in the treatment of diphtheria. The Medicine Prize has subsequently highlighted a number of important discoveries including penicillin, genetic engineering and blood-typing.

This year the 2012 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine recognizes two scientists who discovered that mature, specialised cells can be reprogrammed to become immature cells capable of developing into all tissues of the body. Their findings have revolutionised our understanding of how cells and organisms develop.

Sir John B. Gurdon, born in 1933 in Dippenhall, UK, discovered in 1962 that the specialisation of cells is reversible. In a classic experiment, he replaced the immature cell nucleus in an egg cell of a frog with the nucleus from a mature intestinal cell. This modified egg cell developed into a normal tadpole. The same technique would eventually lead to Dolly the sheep, the first cloned mammal.

Shinya Yamanaka, born in Osaka, Japan in 1962, discovered more than 40 years later, in 2006, how intact mature cells in mice could be reprogrammed to become immature stem cells. Surprisingly, by introducing only a few genes, he could reprogram mature cells to become pluripotent stem cells, i.e. immature cells that are able to develop into all types of cells in the body.

The future possibilities lead the way for a persons own skin or blood cells being used to regenerate tissues to repair the heart after a heart attack or even the reversal of Alzheimer's disease.

Listen to regional correspondent Matthew French’s full report: RealAudioMP3

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