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Nobel for stem cell experts

Stockholm, Oct. 8 (Reuters): Scientists from Britain and Japan shared a Nobel Prize today for the discovery that adult cells can be transformed back into embryo-like stem cells that may one day re-grow tissue in damaged brains, hearts or other organs.

John Gurdon, 79, of the Gurdon Institute in Cambridge, Britain and Shinya Yamanaka, 50, of Kyoto University in Japan, discovered ways to create tissue that would act like embryonic cells, without the need to collect the cells from embryos.

They share the $1.2 million Nobel Prize for Medicine, for work Gurdon began 50 years ago and Yamanaka capped with a 2006 experiment that transformed the field of “regenerative medicine” — the search for ways to cure disease by growing healthy tissue.

“These ground-breaking discoveries have completely changed our view of the development and specialisation of cells,” the Nobel Assembly said.

All the body starts as stem cells, before developing into tissue like skin, blood, nerves, muscle and bone. The big hope is that stem cells can grow to replace damaged tissue in cases from spinal cord injuries to Parkinson’s disease.

“You can’t take out a large part of the heart or the brain or so to study this, but now you can take a cell from, for example, the skin of the patient, reprogramme it, return it to a pluripotent state, and then grow it in a laboratory,” Gurdon said.

 
 
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