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Pair awarded Nobel in medicine for work on stem cells

  • In this Monday, Oct. 8, 2012 photo combo, British scientist John Gurdon, left, speaks in London, and Japanese scientist Shinya Yamanaka, right, speaks in Kyoto after they were named winners of the 2012 Nobel Prize in medicine for discovering that mature, specialized cells of the body can be reprogrammed into stem cells — a discovery that scientists hope to turn into new treatments. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham, left; Kyodo News, right)  JAPAN OUT, MANDATORY CREDIT, NO LICENSING IN CHINA, FRANCE, HONG KONG, JAPAN AND SOUTH KOREA

    In this Monday, Oct. 8, 2012 photo combo, British scientist John Gurdon, left, speaks in London, and Japanese scientist Shinya Yamanaka, right, speaks in Kyoto after they were named winners of the 2012 Nobel Prize in medicine for discovering that mature, specialized cells of the body can be reprogrammed into stem cells — a discovery that scientists hope to turn into new treatments. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham, left; Kyodo News, right) JAPAN OUT, MANDATORY CREDIT, NO LICENSING IN CHINA, FRANCE, HONG KONG, JAPAN AND SOUTH KOREA Purchase photo reprints »

  • FILE - A Sept. 11, 2011 file photo shows Samantha Stosur of Australia reacting during the women's championship match against Serena Williams during the women's championship match at the U.S. Open tennis tournament in New York. The defending U.S. Open champion, Stosur is among the fittest women on the WTA tour. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum, File)

    FILE - A Sept. 11, 2011 file photo shows Samantha Stosur of Australia reacting during the women's championship match against Serena Williams during the women's championship match at the U.S. Open tennis tournament in New York. The defending U.S. Open champion, Stosur is among the fittest women on the WTA tour. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum, File) Purchase photo reprints »

  • In this April, 2008 photo, Kyoto University Professor Shinya Yamanaka, left, and British researcher John Gurdon exchange words as they attend a symposium on induced pluripotent stem cell in Tokyo.  Gurdon and Yamanaka of Japan won this year's Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine on Monday, Oct. 8, 2012 for discovering that mature, specialized cells of the body can be reprogrammed into stem cells - a discovery that scientists hope to turn into new treatments. (AP Photo/Kyodo News) JAPAN OUT, MANDATORY CREDIT, NO LICENSING IN CHINA, FRANCE, HONG KONG, JAPAN AND SOUTH KOREA

    In this April, 2008 photo, Kyoto University Professor Shinya Yamanaka, left, and British researcher John Gurdon exchange words as they attend a symposium on induced pluripotent stem cell in Tokyo. Gurdon and Yamanaka of Japan won this year's Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine on Monday, Oct. 8, 2012 for discovering that mature, specialized cells of the body can be reprogrammed into stem cells - a discovery that scientists hope to turn into new treatments. (AP Photo/Kyodo News) JAPAN OUT, MANDATORY CREDIT, NO LICENSING IN CHINA, FRANCE, HONG KONG, JAPAN AND SOUTH KOREA Purchase photo reprints »

  • In this April, 2008 photo, Kyoto University Professor Shinya Yamanaka, left, and British researcher John Gurdon exchange words as they attend a symposium on induced pluripotent stem cell in Tokyo.  Gurdon and Yamanaka of Japan won this year's Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine on Monday, Oct. 8, 2012 for discovering that mature, specialized cells of the body can be reprogrammed into stem cells - a discovery that scientists hope to turn into new treatments. (AP Photo/Kyodo News) JAPAN OUT, MANDATORY CREDIT, NO LICENSING IN CHINA, FRANCE, HONG KONG, JAPAN AND SOUTH KOREA

    In this April, 2008 photo, Kyoto University Professor Shinya Yamanaka, left, and British researcher John Gurdon exchange words as they attend a symposium on induced pluripotent stem cell in Tokyo. Gurdon and Yamanaka of Japan won this year's Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine on Monday, Oct. 8, 2012 for discovering that mature, specialized cells of the body can be reprogrammed into stem cells - a discovery that scientists hope to turn into new treatments. (AP Photo/Kyodo News) JAPAN OUT, MANDATORY CREDIT, NO LICENSING IN CHINA, FRANCE, HONG KONG, JAPAN AND SOUTH KOREA Purchase photo reprints »

  • British scientist John Gurdon speaks during a news conference in London, Monday, Oct. 8, 2012.  Gurdon and a Japanese scientist, Shinya Yamanaka, won the Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine on Monday for discovering that ordinary cells of the body can be reprogrammed into stem cells, which then can turn into any kind of tissue — a discovery that may led to new treatments.  (AP Photo/Matt Dunham)

    British scientist John Gurdon speaks during a news conference in London, Monday, Oct. 8, 2012. Gurdon and a Japanese scientist, Shinya Yamanaka, won the Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine on Monday for discovering that ordinary cells of the body can be reprogrammed into stem cells, which then can turn into any kind of tissue — a discovery that may led to new treatments. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham) Purchase photo reprints »

  • Kyoto University Professor Shinya Yamanaka speaks during a news conference at Kyoto University in Kyoto, western Japan, Monday, Oct. 8, 2012, after learning that he and British researcher John Gurdon won this year's Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine. The prize committee at Stockholm's Karolinska Institute said the two won the prize for discovering that mature, specialized cells of the body can be reprogrammed into stem cells — a discovery that scientists hope to turn into new treatments. (AP Photo/Kyodo News) JAPAN OUT, MANDATORY CREDIT, NO LICENSING IN CHINA, FRANCE, HONG KONG, JAPAN AND SOUTH KOREA

    Kyoto University Professor Shinya Yamanaka speaks during a news conference at Kyoto University in Kyoto, western Japan, Monday, Oct. 8, 2012, after learning that he and British researcher John Gurdon won this year's Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine. The prize committee at Stockholm's Karolinska Institute said the two won the prize for discovering that mature, specialized cells of the body can be reprogrammed into stem cells — a discovery that scientists hope to turn into new treatments. (AP Photo/Kyodo News) JAPAN OUT, MANDATORY CREDIT, NO LICENSING IN CHINA, FRANCE, HONG KONG, JAPAN AND SOUTH KOREA Purchase photo reprints »

  • Kyoto University Professor Shinya Yamanaka speaks during a news conference at Kyoto University in Kyoto, western Japan, Monday, Oct. 8, 2012, after learning that he and British researcher John Gurdon won this year's Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine. The prize committee at Stockholm's Karolinska Institute said the two won the prize for discovering that mature, specialized cells of the body can be reprogrammed into stem cells — a discovery that scientists hope to turn into new treatments. (AP Photo/Kyodo News) JAPAN OUT, MANDATORY CREDIT, NO LICENSING IN CHINA, FRANCE, HONG KONG, JAPAN AND SOUTH KOREA

    Kyoto University Professor Shinya Yamanaka speaks during a news conference at Kyoto University in Kyoto, western Japan, Monday, Oct. 8, 2012, after learning that he and British researcher John Gurdon won this year's Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine. The prize committee at Stockholm's Karolinska Institute said the two won the prize for discovering that mature, specialized cells of the body can be reprogrammed into stem cells — a discovery that scientists hope to turn into new treatments. (AP Photo/Kyodo News) JAPAN OUT, MANDATORY CREDIT, NO LICENSING IN CHINA, FRANCE, HONG KONG, JAPAN AND SOUTH KOREA Purchase photo reprints »

  • Kyoto University Professor Shinya Yamanaka speaks during a news conference at Kyoto University in Kyoto, western Japan, Monday, Oct. 8, 2012, after learning that he and British researcher John Gurdon won this year's Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine. The prize committee at Stockholm's Karolinska Institute said the two won the prize for discovering that mature, specialized cells of the body can be reprogrammed into stem cells — a discovery that scientists hope to turn into new treatments. (AP Photo/Kyodo News) JAPAN OUT, MANDATORY CREDIT, NO LICENSING IN CHINA, FRANCE, HONG KONG, JAPAN AND SOUTH KOREA

    Kyoto University Professor Shinya Yamanaka speaks during a news conference at Kyoto University in Kyoto, western Japan, Monday, Oct. 8, 2012, after learning that he and British researcher John Gurdon won this year's Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine. The prize committee at Stockholm's Karolinska Institute said the two won the prize for discovering that mature, specialized cells of the body can be reprogrammed into stem cells — a discovery that scientists hope to turn into new treatments. (AP Photo/Kyodo News) JAPAN OUT, MANDATORY CREDIT, NO LICENSING IN CHINA, FRANCE, HONG KONG, JAPAN AND SOUTH KOREA Purchase photo reprints »

  • British scientist John Gurdon speaks during a news conference in London, Monday, Oct. 8, 2012.  Gurdon and a Japanese scientist, Shinya Yamanaka, won the Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine on Monday for discovering that ordinary cells of the body can be reprogrammed into stem cells, which then can turn into any kind of tissue — a discovery that may led to new treatments.  (AP Photo/Matt Dunham)

    British scientist John Gurdon speaks during a news conference in London, Monday, Oct. 8, 2012. Gurdon and a Japanese scientist, Shinya Yamanaka, won the Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine on Monday for discovering that ordinary cells of the body can be reprogrammed into stem cells, which then can turn into any kind of tissue — a discovery that may led to new treatments. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham) Purchase photo reprints »

  • British scientist John Gurdon speaks during a news conference in London, Monday, Oct. 8, 2012.  Gurdon and a Japanese scientist, Shinya Yamanaka, won the Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine on Monday for discovering that ordinary cells of the body can be reprogrammed into stem cells, which then can turn into any kind of tissue — a discovery that may led to new treatments.  (AP Photo/Matt Dunham)

    British scientist John Gurdon speaks during a news conference in London, Monday, Oct. 8, 2012. Gurdon and a Japanese scientist, Shinya Yamanaka, won the Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine on Monday for discovering that ordinary cells of the body can be reprogrammed into stem cells, which then can turn into any kind of tissue — a discovery that may led to new treatments. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham) Purchase photo reprints »

  • Kyoto University Professor Shinya Yamanaka receives a call from Japanese Prime Minister Toshihiko Noda to congratulate his winning of Nobel Prize during a news conference at Kyoto University in Kyoto, Japan, Monday night, Oct. 8, 2012. Yamanaka and British researcher John Gurdon won this year's Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine. (AP Photo/Kyodo News) JAPAN OUT, MANDATORY CREDIT, NO LICENSING IN CHINA, FRANCE, HONG KONG, JAPAN AND SOUTH KOREA

    Kyoto University Professor Shinya Yamanaka receives a call from Japanese Prime Minister Toshihiko Noda to congratulate his winning of Nobel Prize during a news conference at Kyoto University in Kyoto, Japan, Monday night, Oct. 8, 2012. Yamanaka and British researcher John Gurdon won this year's Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine. (AP Photo/Kyodo News) JAPAN OUT, MANDATORY CREDIT, NO LICENSING IN CHINA, FRANCE, HONG KONG, JAPAN AND SOUTH KOREA Purchase photo reprints »

  • Kyoto University Professor Shinya Yamanaka receives a call from Japanese Prime Minister Toshihiko Noda to congratulate his winning of Nobel Prize during a news conference at Kyoto University in Kyoto, Japan, Monday night, Oct. 8, 2012. Yamanaka and British researcher John Gurdon won this year's Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine. (AP Photo/Kyodo News) JAPAN OUT, MANDATORY CREDIT, NO LICENSING IN CHINA, FRANCE, HONG KONG, JAPAN AND SOUTH KOREA

    Kyoto University Professor Shinya Yamanaka receives a call from Japanese Prime Minister Toshihiko Noda to congratulate his winning of Nobel Prize during a news conference at Kyoto University in Kyoto, Japan, Monday night, Oct. 8, 2012. Yamanaka and British researcher John Gurdon won this year's Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine. (AP Photo/Kyodo News) JAPAN OUT, MANDATORY CREDIT, NO LICENSING IN CHINA, FRANCE, HONG KONG, JAPAN AND SOUTH KOREA Purchase photo reprints »

  • Kyoto University Professor Shinya Yamanaka reacts as journalists applaud the Nobel Prize winner at the end of his news conference at the university in Kyoto, Japan, Monday night, Oct. 8, 2012. Yamanaka and British researcher John Gurdon won this year's Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine. (AP Photo/Kyodo News) JAPAN OUT, MANDATORY CREDIT, NO LICENSING IN CHINA, FRANCE, HONG KONG, JAPAN AND SOUTH KOREA

    Kyoto University Professor Shinya Yamanaka reacts as journalists applaud the Nobel Prize winner at the end of his news conference at the university in Kyoto, Japan, Monday night, Oct. 8, 2012. Yamanaka and British researcher John Gurdon won this year's Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine. (AP Photo/Kyodo News) JAPAN OUT, MANDATORY CREDIT, NO LICENSING IN CHINA, FRANCE, HONG KONG, JAPAN AND SOUTH KOREA Purchase photo reprints »

  • Kyoto University Professor Shinya Yamanaka reacts as journalists applaud the Nobel Prize winner at the end of his news conference at the university in Kyoto, Japan, Monday night, Oct. 8, 2012. Yamanaka and British researcher John Gurdon won this year's Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine. (AP Photo/Kyodo News) JAPAN OUT, MANDATORY CREDIT, NO LICENSING IN CHINA, FRANCE, HONG KONG, JAPAN AND SOUTH KOREA

    Kyoto University Professor Shinya Yamanaka reacts as journalists applaud the Nobel Prize winner at the end of his news conference at the university in Kyoto, Japan, Monday night, Oct. 8, 2012. Yamanaka and British researcher John Gurdon won this year's Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine. (AP Photo/Kyodo News) JAPAN OUT, MANDATORY CREDIT, NO LICENSING IN CHINA, FRANCE, HONG KONG, JAPAN AND SOUTH KOREA Purchase photo reprints »

  • Kyoto University Professor Shinya Yamanaka reacts as journalists applaud the Nobel Prize winner at the end of his news conference at the university in Kyoto, Japan, Monday night, Oct. 8, 2012. Yamanaka and British researcher John Gurdon won this year's Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine. (AP Photo/Kyodo News) JAPAN OUT, MANDATORY CREDIT, NO LICENSING IN CHINA, FRANCE, HONG KONG, JAPAN AND SOUTH KOREA

    Kyoto University Professor Shinya Yamanaka reacts as journalists applaud the Nobel Prize winner at the end of his news conference at the university in Kyoto, Japan, Monday night, Oct. 8, 2012. Yamanaka and British researcher John Gurdon won this year's Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine. (AP Photo/Kyodo News) JAPAN OUT, MANDATORY CREDIT, NO LICENSING IN CHINA, FRANCE, HONG KONG, JAPAN AND SOUTH KOREA Purchase photo reprints »

  • Professor Shinya Yamanaka arrives at Kyoto University for a news conference in Kyoto, western Japan Monday, Oct. 8, 2012, after the announcement in Stockholm by Nobel Prize committee.  British researcher John Gurdon and Yamanaka of Japan won this year's Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine on Monday for discovering that mature, specialized cells of the body can be reprogrammed into stem cells - a discovery that scientists hope to turn into new treatments. (AP Photo/Kyodo News) JAPAN OUT, MANDATORY CREDIT, NO LICENSING IN CHINA, FRANCE, HONG KONG, JAPAN AND SOUTH KOREA

    Professor Shinya Yamanaka arrives at Kyoto University for a news conference in Kyoto, western Japan Monday, Oct. 8, 2012, after the announcement in Stockholm by Nobel Prize committee. British researcher John Gurdon and Yamanaka of Japan won this year's Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine on Monday for discovering that mature, specialized cells of the body can be reprogrammed into stem cells - a discovery that scientists hope to turn into new treatments. (AP Photo/Kyodo News) JAPAN OUT, MANDATORY CREDIT, NO LICENSING IN CHINA, FRANCE, HONG KONG, JAPAN AND SOUTH KOREA Purchase photo reprints »

  • Professor Shinya Yamanaka arrives at Kyoto University for a news conference in Kyoto, western Japan Monday, Oct. 8, 2012, after the announcement in Stockholm by Nobel Prize committee.  British researcher John Gurdon and Yamanaka of Japan won this year's Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine on Monday for discovering that mature, specialized cells of the body can be reprogrammed into stem cells - a discovery that scientists hope to turn into new treatments. (AP Photo/Kyodo News) JAPAN OUT, MANDATORY CREDIT, NO LICENSING IN CHINA, FRANCE, HONG KONG, JAPAN AND SOUTH KOREA

    Professor Shinya Yamanaka arrives at Kyoto University for a news conference in Kyoto, western Japan Monday, Oct. 8, 2012, after the announcement in Stockholm by Nobel Prize committee. British researcher John Gurdon and Yamanaka of Japan won this year's Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine on Monday for discovering that mature, specialized cells of the body can be reprogrammed into stem cells - a discovery that scientists hope to turn into new treatments. (AP Photo/Kyodo News) JAPAN OUT, MANDATORY CREDIT, NO LICENSING IN CHINA, FRANCE, HONG KONG, JAPAN AND SOUTH KOREA Purchase photo reprints »

  • In this Monday, Oct. 8, 2012 photo combo, British scientist John Gurdon, left, speaks in London, and Japanese scientist Shinya Yamanaka, right, speaks in Kyoto after they were named winners of the 2012 Nobel Prize in medicine for discovering that mature, specialized cells of the body can be reprogrammed into stem cells — a discovery that scientists hope to turn into new treatments. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham, left; Kyodo News, right)  JAPAN OUT, MANDATORY CREDIT, NO LICENSING IN CHINA, FRANCE, HONG KONG, JAPAN AND SOUTH KOREA

    In this Monday, Oct. 8, 2012 photo combo, British scientist John Gurdon, left, speaks in London, and Japanese scientist Shinya Yamanaka, right, speaks in Kyoto after they were named winners of the 2012 Nobel Prize in medicine for discovering that mature, specialized cells of the body can be reprogrammed into stem cells — a discovery that scientists hope to turn into new treatments. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham, left; Kyodo News, right) JAPAN OUT, MANDATORY CREDIT, NO LICENSING IN CHINA, FRANCE, HONG KONG, JAPAN AND SOUTH KOREA Purchase photo reprints »

  • In this Monday, Oct. 8, 2012 photo combo, British scientist John Gurdon, left, speaks in London, and Japanese scientist Shinya Yamanaka, right, speaks in Kyoto after they were named winners of the 2012 Nobel Prize in medicine for discovering that mature, specialized cells of the body can be reprogrammed into stem cells — a discovery that scientists hope to turn into new treatments. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham, left; Kyodo News, right)  JAPAN OUT, MANDATORY CREDIT, NO LICENSING IN CHINA, FRANCE, HONG KONG, JAPAN AND SOUTH KOREA
  • FILE - A Sept. 11, 2011 file photo shows Samantha Stosur of Australia reacting during the women's championship match against Serena Williams during the women's championship match at the U.S. Open tennis tournament in New York. The defending U.S. Open champion, Stosur is among the fittest women on the WTA tour. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum, File)
  • In this April, 2008 photo, Kyoto University Professor Shinya Yamanaka, left, and British researcher John Gurdon exchange words as they attend a symposium on induced pluripotent stem cell in Tokyo.  Gurdon and Yamanaka of Japan won this year's Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine on Monday, Oct. 8, 2012 for discovering that mature, specialized cells of the body can be reprogrammed into stem cells - a discovery that scientists hope to turn into new treatments. (AP Photo/Kyodo News) JAPAN OUT, MANDATORY CREDIT, NO LICENSING IN CHINA, FRANCE, HONG KONG, JAPAN AND SOUTH KOREA
  • In this April, 2008 photo, Kyoto University Professor Shinya Yamanaka, left, and British researcher John Gurdon exchange words as they attend a symposium on induced pluripotent stem cell in Tokyo.  Gurdon and Yamanaka of Japan won this year's Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine on Monday, Oct. 8, 2012 for discovering that mature, specialized cells of the body can be reprogrammed into stem cells - a discovery that scientists hope to turn into new treatments. (AP Photo/Kyodo News) JAPAN OUT, MANDATORY CREDIT, NO LICENSING IN CHINA, FRANCE, HONG KONG, JAPAN AND SOUTH KOREA
  • British scientist John Gurdon speaks during a news conference in London, Monday, Oct. 8, 2012.  Gurdon and a Japanese scientist, Shinya Yamanaka, won the Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine on Monday for discovering that ordinary cells of the body can be reprogrammed into stem cells, which then can turn into any kind of tissue — a discovery that may led to new treatments.  (AP Photo/Matt Dunham)
  • Kyoto University Professor Shinya Yamanaka speaks during a news conference at Kyoto University in Kyoto, western Japan, Monday, Oct. 8, 2012, after learning that he and British researcher John Gurdon won this year's Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine. The prize committee at Stockholm's Karolinska Institute said the two won the prize for discovering that mature, specialized cells of the body can be reprogrammed into stem cells — a discovery that scientists hope to turn into new treatments. (AP Photo/Kyodo News) JAPAN OUT, MANDATORY CREDIT, NO LICENSING IN CHINA, FRANCE, HONG KONG, JAPAN AND SOUTH KOREA
  • Kyoto University Professor Shinya Yamanaka speaks during a news conference at Kyoto University in Kyoto, western Japan, Monday, Oct. 8, 2012, after learning that he and British researcher John Gurdon won this year's Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine. The prize committee at Stockholm's Karolinska Institute said the two won the prize for discovering that mature, specialized cells of the body can be reprogrammed into stem cells — a discovery that scientists hope to turn into new treatments. (AP Photo/Kyodo News) JAPAN OUT, MANDATORY CREDIT, NO LICENSING IN CHINA, FRANCE, HONG KONG, JAPAN AND SOUTH KOREA
  • Kyoto University Professor Shinya Yamanaka speaks during a news conference at Kyoto University in Kyoto, western Japan, Monday, Oct. 8, 2012, after learning that he and British researcher John Gurdon won this year's Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine. The prize committee at Stockholm's Karolinska Institute said the two won the prize for discovering that mature, specialized cells of the body can be reprogrammed into stem cells — a discovery that scientists hope to turn into new treatments. (AP Photo/Kyodo News) JAPAN OUT, MANDATORY CREDIT, NO LICENSING IN CHINA, FRANCE, HONG KONG, JAPAN AND SOUTH KOREA
  • British scientist John Gurdon speaks during a news conference in London, Monday, Oct. 8, 2012.  Gurdon and a Japanese scientist, Shinya Yamanaka, won the Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine on Monday for discovering that ordinary cells of the body can be reprogrammed into stem cells, which then can turn into any kind of tissue — a discovery that may led to new treatments.  (AP Photo/Matt Dunham)
  • British scientist John Gurdon speaks during a news conference in London, Monday, Oct. 8, 2012.  Gurdon and a Japanese scientist, Shinya Yamanaka, won the Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine on Monday for discovering that ordinary cells of the body can be reprogrammed into stem cells, which then can turn into any kind of tissue — a discovery that may led to new treatments.  (AP Photo/Matt Dunham)
  • Kyoto University Professor Shinya Yamanaka receives a call from Japanese Prime Minister Toshihiko Noda to congratulate his winning of Nobel Prize during a news conference at Kyoto University in Kyoto, Japan, Monday night, Oct. 8, 2012. Yamanaka and British researcher John Gurdon won this year's Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine. (AP Photo/Kyodo News) JAPAN OUT, MANDATORY CREDIT, NO LICENSING IN CHINA, FRANCE, HONG KONG, JAPAN AND SOUTH KOREA
  • Kyoto University Professor Shinya Yamanaka receives a call from Japanese Prime Minister Toshihiko Noda to congratulate his winning of Nobel Prize during a news conference at Kyoto University in Kyoto, Japan, Monday night, Oct. 8, 2012. Yamanaka and British researcher John Gurdon won this year's Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine. (AP Photo/Kyodo News) JAPAN OUT, MANDATORY CREDIT, NO LICENSING IN CHINA, FRANCE, HONG KONG, JAPAN AND SOUTH KOREA
  • Kyoto University Professor Shinya Yamanaka reacts as journalists applaud the Nobel Prize winner at the end of his news conference at the university in Kyoto, Japan, Monday night, Oct. 8, 2012. Yamanaka and British researcher John Gurdon won this year's Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine. (AP Photo/Kyodo News) JAPAN OUT, MANDATORY CREDIT, NO LICENSING IN CHINA, FRANCE, HONG KONG, JAPAN AND SOUTH KOREA
  • Kyoto University Professor Shinya Yamanaka reacts as journalists applaud the Nobel Prize winner at the end of his news conference at the university in Kyoto, Japan, Monday night, Oct. 8, 2012. Yamanaka and British researcher John Gurdon won this year's Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine. (AP Photo/Kyodo News) JAPAN OUT, MANDATORY CREDIT, NO LICENSING IN CHINA, FRANCE, HONG KONG, JAPAN AND SOUTH KOREA
  • Kyoto University Professor Shinya Yamanaka reacts as journalists applaud the Nobel Prize winner at the end of his news conference at the university in Kyoto, Japan, Monday night, Oct. 8, 2012. Yamanaka and British researcher John Gurdon won this year's Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine. (AP Photo/Kyodo News) JAPAN OUT, MANDATORY CREDIT, NO LICENSING IN CHINA, FRANCE, HONG KONG, JAPAN AND SOUTH KOREA
  • Professor Shinya Yamanaka arrives at Kyoto University for a news conference in Kyoto, western Japan Monday, Oct. 8, 2012, after the announcement in Stockholm by Nobel Prize committee.  British researcher John Gurdon and Yamanaka of Japan won this year's Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine on Monday for discovering that mature, specialized cells of the body can be reprogrammed into stem cells - a discovery that scientists hope to turn into new treatments. (AP Photo/Kyodo News) JAPAN OUT, MANDATORY CREDIT, NO LICENSING IN CHINA, FRANCE, HONG KONG, JAPAN AND SOUTH KOREA
  • Professor Shinya Yamanaka arrives at Kyoto University for a news conference in Kyoto, western Japan Monday, Oct. 8, 2012, after the announcement in Stockholm by Nobel Prize committee.  British researcher John Gurdon and Yamanaka of Japan won this year's Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine on Monday for discovering that mature, specialized cells of the body can be reprogrammed into stem cells - a discovery that scientists hope to turn into new treatments. (AP Photo/Kyodo News) JAPAN OUT, MANDATORY CREDIT, NO LICENSING IN CHINA, FRANCE, HONG KONG, JAPAN AND SOUTH KOREA
  • In this Monday, Oct. 8, 2012 photo combo, British scientist John Gurdon, left, speaks in London, and Japanese scientist Shinya Yamanaka, right, speaks in Kyoto after they were named winners of the 2012 Nobel Prize in medicine for discovering that mature, specialized cells of the body can be reprogrammed into stem cells — a discovery that scientists hope to turn into new treatments. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham, left; Kyodo News, right)  JAPAN OUT, MANDATORY CREDIT, NO LICENSING IN CHINA, FRANCE, HONG KONG, JAPAN AND SOUTH KOREA

The work of British researcher John Gurdon and Japanese scientist Shinya Yamanaka — who was born the year Gurdon made his discovery — holds hope for treating diseases like Parkinson’s and diabetes by growing customized tissue for transplant.

And it has spurred a new generation of laboratory studies into other illnesses, including schizophrenia, which may lead to new treatments.

Basically, Gurdon, 79, and Yamanaka, 50, showed how to make the equivalent of embryonic stem cells without the ethical questions those very versatile cells pose, a promise scientists are now scrambling to fulfill.

Once created, these “blank slate” cells can be nudged toward developing into other cell types. Skin cells can ultimately be transformed into brain cells, for example.

Just last week, scientists reported turning skin cells from mice into eggs that produced baby mice, a possible step toward new fertility treatments.

Gurdon and Yamanaka performed “courageous experiments” that challenged scientific opinion, said Doug Melton, co-director of the Harvard Stem Cell Institute.

“Their work shows ... that while cells might be specialized to do one thing, they have the potential to do something else,” Melton said. It “really lays the groundwork for all the excitement about stem cell biology.”

Another Harvard stem cell researcher, Dr. George Daley said, “I don’t think anybody is surprised” by the award announcement. “The fact that these two share it together is inspired.”

In announcing the $1.2 million award, the Nobel committee at Stockholm’s Karolinska Institute said the work has “revolutionized our understanding of how cells and organisms develop.”

Gurdon showed in 1962 that DNA from specialized cells of tadpoles, like skin or intestinal cells, could be used to clone more tadpoles. In 1997, the same process led to the cloning of Dolly the sheep, showing it would also work in mammals.

Gurdon told reporters in London that at the time of his discovery, it had “no obvious therapeutic benefit at all. ... It was almost 50 years before the value — the potential value — of that basic scientific research came to light.”

Forty-four years after Gurdon’s discovery, in 2006, Yamanaka and his team moved beyond tadpoles. They showed that a surprisingly simple recipe could turn mouse skin cells back into primitive cells, which in turn could be prodded into different kinds of mature cells. The work was later repeated with human cells.

In theory those primitive cells are “blank slates” — like embryonic stem cells that can be turned into any cell in the body.

Turning a skin cell into a stem cell takes weeks in a lab. Scientists introduce two to four genes that turn the cell’s own genes on and off. It’s a little like rebooting a computer, changing the cell from running the collection of genes that make it a skin cell into using another set that make it a stem cell.

Gurdon, who said his ambitions to become a scientist were dismissed as “completely ridiculous” by his headmaster when he was in his teens, has served as a professor of cell biology at Cambridge University’s Magdalene College. He is currently at the Gurdon Institute in Cambridge, which he founded.

Yamanaka worked at the Gladstone Institute in San Francisco and Nara Institute of Science and Technology in Japan. He is currently at Kyoto University and also affiliated with the Gladstone Institute. Yamanaka is the first Japanese scientist to win the Nobel medicine award since 1987.

Asked how he planned to celebrate, Gurdon said he was invited to drinks at 6 o’clock.

“I intend to attend those drinks,” he said dryly.

He described his skepticism when first getting the congratulatory call from Stockholm, saying that “the call came from someone in Sweden, and your immediate reaction is: ‘Is this right? Is it true or is it someone pulling your leg?’”

Yamanaka said he was honored to share the award with Gurdon “because without his work, which he published 50 years ago, the same year I was born, without his work I would never done this and we would have never studied this project.”

Yamanaka said he did not yet know what he was going to do to celebrate.

“I just need some beer,” he said, speaking via videoconference from Japan to thank his colleagues in San Francisco for their support.

Choosing Yamanaka as a Nobel winner just six years after his discovery is unusual. The Nobel committees typically reward research done more than a decade earlier, to make sure it has stood the test of time.

However, in 2010, the Nobel Prize in physics went to two researchers whose discoveries were also published six years earlier. In 2006, two American scientists won the medicine prize eight years after their work was published.

Prize committee member Juleen Zierath said Gurdon and Yamanaka’s discoveries, which also earned them a Lasker award for basic research in 2009, could hold “immense potential,” including in developing treatments for Parkinson’s disease and in making cells that produce insulin. However, she added that therapeutic implications are still far away.

Experts welcomed the Nobel announcement, praising the duo for their groundbreaking and influential discoveries in a field riddled with ethical debates.

President George W. Bush outlawed federal funding for work on embryonic stem cells that hadn’t been derived by a particular date. President Barack Obama overturned that order, allowing access to many more lines of cells.

“Everyone who works on developmental biology and on the understanding of disease mechanisms will applaud these excellent and clear choices for the Nobel Prize,” said John Hardy, professor of Neuroscience at University College London. “Countless labs’ work builds on the breakthroughs they have pioneered.”

The idea of reprograming cells has been put to work in basic research on disease, through an approach sometimes called “disease in a dish.”

The reprogramming allows scientists to create particular kinds of tissue they want to study, like lung tissue for studying cystic fibrosis, or brain tissue for Huntington’s disease. By reprogramming cells from patients with a particular disease, they can create new tissue with the same genetic background, and study it in the lab. That can give new insights into the roots of the problem.

In addition, that approach allows them to screen drugs in the lab for possible new medicines.

The medicine award was the first Nobel Prize to be announced this year. The physics award will be announced Tuesday, followed by chemistry on Wednesday, literature on Thursday and the Nobel Peace Prize on Friday.

The economics prize, which was not among the original awards, but was established by the Swedish central bank in 1968, will be announced on Oct. 15.

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Karl Ritter reported from Stockholm. AP writers Louise Nordstrom in Stockholm, Cassandra Vinograd and Raphael Satter in London, Elaine Kurtenbach in Tokyo, and Garance Burke in San Francisco contributed to this report.

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Online:

Nobel Prize website: http://nobelprize.org

‘Blank slate’ cells: http://stemcells.nih.gov/info/Regenerative—Medicine/2006chapter10.htm

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