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Nobel Prize awarded for research in induced pluripotency
The shining, golden inscription inventas vitam juvat excoluisse per artes now hangs around the neck of the most recent Nobel Prize in Medicine and Physiology winner, Sir John B. Gurdon. A Doctor of Zoology from Oxford University, Gurdon studied the active and inactive genes in cells. He hypothesized that mature cells contained the information needed to grow into other types of cells. His research betters life on earth by opening numerous avenues in research and even ethics.
To prove his hypothesis, Gurdon replaced the immature nucleus of a frog egg cell with the nucleus of a mature intestinal cell. The cell matured and still developed into a tadpole; pluripotent cells were created. These pluripotent cells proved that DNA of mature, already specialized cells have the information needed to develop into other types of cells of the same organism. Moreover, it proved that the genes in DNA not used in specialization do not disappear from the cell, but rather become inactived. The inactive genes can be reactivated, allowing any cell to become another cell of the same organism. Gurdon’s hypothesis and experiment was tested and verified by other scientists.
This newfound mastery of cellular specialization presents an alternative for research that previously required stem cells derived from human embryos. Inducing pluripotency in cells makes stem cell researching a less dramatic process. Using cells not speciliazed for human reproduction skirts ethical issues linked to abortion and life at conception positions.
Pluripotent cells also impact regenerative medicine. These cells provide the means for generating organs and body parts to be transplanted. Cells taken from a patient in need of a transplant could one day be used to grow needed organs, reducing the need of donated organs. The study of disease can be greatly furthered by organ-generating pluripotent cells. Generated organs and body parts can take the place of human subjects and prevent suffering and risks while still providing necessary information and insight into disease progression and treatment.
Gurdon’s efforts and discoveries were done in partnership with fellow researcher Shinya Yamanaka who also received the Nobel Prize. The discoveries made by Gurdon and his partner are most representative of “bettering the earth” not only medically but also ethically. This Nobel Prize-winning finding is the inception for research and experimentation that will unlock medical advances, bettering the earth now and in the years to come.