Professor Sir John Gurdon of the University of Cambridge has been jointly awarded the Nobel Prize for his work on stem cells. He shares the prize for medicine or physiology with Professor Shinya Yamanaka from Japan. Both researchers demonstrated the ability to reprogramme adult cells into stem cells, which the Nobel committee said had 'revolutionised our understanding of how cells and organisms develop'.
Sir John's work in 1962 on frog gut cells demonstrated that the DNA in a cell contains all the information needed to create a whole organism. He showed the nucleus of a cell could be extracted, implanted into an egg cell, and produce a living mammal. The technique, known as somatic cell nuclear transfer, was later used to create the world's first cloned mammal, Dolly the Sheep.
Professor Yamanaka of the University of Kyoto showed that adult cells could be reprogrammed into a pluripotent state and possess an embryonic-like ability to turn into any cell in the body. His discovery was made first in mouse cells in 2006, then later in human cells.
Professor Gurdon, group leader at the Wellcome Trust and Cancer Research UK Gurdon Institute, said: 'I am immensely honoured to be awarded this spectacular recognition, and delighted to be due to receive it with Shinya Yamanaka, whose work has brought the whole field within the realistic expectation of therapeutic benefits'.
'I am of course most enormously grateful to those colleagues who have worked with me, at various times over the last half century'.
'It is particularly pleasing to see how purely basic research, originally aimed at testing the genetic identity of different cell types in the body, has turned out to have clear human health prospects'.
Sir John Burn, professor of clinical genetics at Newcastle University, said: 'I am delighted to hear that doctors Gurdon and Yamanaka have been recognised. Stem cell research holds great promise and their demonstration that mature cells could be persuaded to revert to a pluripotent state was a real game changer'.
Professor Sir Ian Wilmut, from the University of Edinburgh and who led the team that cloned Dolly the Sheep, said: 'Many congratulations to Shinya Yamanaka and John Gurdon for the award of the Nobel Prize. I am delighted that the committee has recognised their important and innovative work on cellular reprogramming and its importance for regenerative medicine'.