UK & World News
Stem Cell Researchers Share Nobel Prize
A British scientist shares this year's Nobel Prize for Medicine with a Japanese researcher for their work on creating stem cells.
Sir John Gurdon, 79, and Japan's Shinya Yamanaka equally share the prize of $1.2m (£750,000), the Nobel Assembly at Sweden's Karolinska Institute said.
"These groundbreaking discoveries have completely changed our view of the development and specialisation of cells," it added.
They "have shown that specialised cells can turn back the developmental clock under certain circumstances," the committee said.
"These discoveries have also provided new tools for scientists around the world and led to remarkable progress in many areas of medicine."
The practical result is that skin cells can be obtained from people who are ill to find out more about their diseases and develop new therapies.
Sir John showed in 1962 - the year Professor Yamanaka was born - that the DNA from specialised cells of frogs, like skin or intestinal cells, could be used to generate new tadpoles.
That showed the DNA still had its ability to drive the formation of all cells of the body.
More than 40 years later, in 2006, Prof Yamanaka showed that a surprisingly simple recipe could turn mature cells back into primitive cells, which in turn could be prodded into different kinds of mature cells.
Basically, the primitive cells were the equivalent of embryonic stem cells, which had been embroiled in controversy because to get human embryonic cells, human embryos had to be destroyed.
Prof Yamanaka's method provided a way to get such primitive cells without destroying embryos.
Just last week, Japanese scientists reported using Prof Yamanaka's approach to turn skin cells from mice into eggs that produced baby mice.
Sir John has served as a professor of cell biology at Cambridge University's Magdalene College and is currently at the Gurdon Institute in Cambridge, which he founded.
Prof Yamanaka worked at the Gladstone Institute in San Francisco and Nara Institute of Science and Technology in Japan.
The medicine award was the first Nobel Prize to be announced this year. The physics award will be announced on 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 October 15.