The Nobel Assembly at the Karolinska Institutet has announced that British scientist John Gurdon and Japanese researcher Shinya Yamanaka will share the 2012 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine.
In 1962, Gurdon cloned a frog by transplanting the genetic material from an intestinal cell of one frog into the fertilized egg cell of another. The modified egg cell developed into a normal tadpole, demonstrating that the DNA of the mature cell still had all the information needed to develop all cells in the frog. In 2006 and 2007, Yamanaka extended Gurdon's work with his discovery that intact mature cells in mice could be reprogrammed to become immature stem cells capable of developing into all types of cells in the body by introducing only a few genes.
According to the Washington Post, Yamanaka's discovery was a virtual fountain of youth for cells and spawned a global research effort to turn the induced cells into therapies tailored to individual patients for a wide range of ailments, including heart disease, some forms of blindness, and Parkinson's disease.
"This field has a long history, starting with John Gurdon," Yamanaka said in a brief interview posted on the Nobel Prize Web site. "My goal all my life is to bring this stem cell technology to the bedside, to patients."