Reuters reports that this year’s Nobel Prize in Medicine was won by the British and Japanese researchers John Gurdon and Shinya Yamanaka. The two scientists discovered a method to transform adult cells into stem cells that can be used for the creation of any type of tissue.
79-year-old John Gurdon from the Gurdon Institute in Cambridge, Britain and 50-year-old Shinya Yamanaka of Kyoto University in Japan are responsible for the biggest stem cell breakthrough of the century. After many tests, the two researchers discovered that new tissue can be produced without harvesting embryonic cells. Their finding brought them the Nobel Prize in Medicine and the $1.2 million award which they have equally divided among them.
Nobel Assembly at Stockholm’s Karolinska Institute justified their decision by saying that Gurdon and Yamanaka’s discoveries have completely changed the way the development and specialization of cells was viewed up to the present. The fact that the production of stem cells no longer requires embryos has determined scientists to hope that stem cells can be used in the near future to replace damaged tissue. There is a wide range of affections that can be treated with the help of stem cells, such as, spinal cord injuries and Parkinson’s disease.
The level of stem cell is the first stage that the tissue goes through before it becomes an adult cell. For years, it was believed that the process cannot be reversed and mature cells cannot be transformed into stem cells once more. Thanks to the discoveries made by Gurdon and Yamanaka, induced pluripotency stem cells”, or iPS cells can be used to rejuvenate ordinary skin or blood cells and thus, repair organs if the procedure is not rejected by the immune system.
Scientists’ major preoccupation at present is to prevent the procedure from developing into bigger complications, such as, the uncontrolled growth of cells which could lead to tumors. For this matter, the replacement of cells needs to be performed on the same individual who donated the adult cells.