The 2012 Nobel Prize in Medicine has been awarded to British researcher John Gurdon, 79, and Japanese scientist Shinya Yamanaka, 50, for their groundbreaking discovery in stem cell science.
The pair was able to demonstrate how to make the equivalent of embryonic stem cells without the ethical questions those very multi-faceted cells pose. Once these equivalent "blank slate" cells are created, they can develop into many other cell types; for example, skin cells can transform into brain cells.
This huge development has sparked an overflow of excitement and hope in the medical community for treatments of many diseases such as Parkinson's, Alzheimer's, diabetes and so on.
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."
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