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“Pluripotent Stem Cell Researchers Earn the Nobel Prize,” by Tony Blau, MD

November 13, 2012

In early October of 2012, the Nobel committee announced that the prize in Physiology or Medicine would go to two researchers, John Gurdon and Shinya Yamanaka, who discovered how to turn adult cells into pluripotent stem cells.

This feat has the potential to transform the field of stem cell research, and could revolutionize treatments for oncology, autoimmune disorders, and many other conditions. Essentially, these two researchers determined a way to transform mature body cells into stem cells, which are capable of developing into any type of cell in the body. Prior to their discoveries, most scientists believed that, once stem cells developed into specialized cells (e.g., liver cells, bone cells, etc.), they could not return to their pluripotent state.

Now, however, the potential to create stem cells from any available cell source means that scientists will not have to depend upon human embryos to conduct stem cell research. This could eliminate many of the controversies surrounding such research and open the door to huge strides forward.

About Dr. Tony Blau: For the last several years, Anthony “Tony” Blau, MD, has devoted time to oncology and hematology research at the University of Washington’s Institute for Stem Cell and Regenerative Medicine. Dr. Blau’s work includes seeking to understand cancer through genomics, nuclear architecture, and pluripotent stem cells.

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