The 2009 Albert Lasker Basic Medical Research Prize has been awarded to John Gurdon (University of Cambridge) and Shinya Yamanaka (Kyoto University), “for discoveries concerning nuclear reprogramming, the process that instructs specialized adult cells to form early stem cells — creating the potential to become any type of mature cell for experimental or therapeutic purposes“.
John Gurdon pioneered nuclear reprogramming experiments in frogs in the 50s and 60s. In 1966, he obtained the first adult fertile frog from nuclear transfer experiments accomplished with larval intestinal cell nuclei. Forty years later, in 2006, Shinya Yamanaka discovered a reduced set of genes that were sufficient to transform a somatic cell into a pluripotent, thereby producing the first induced pluripotent stem cells, or iPS cells. The acceptance remarks and the associated Nature Medicine assays written by John Gurdon and Shinya Yamanaka are most interesting, worth reading and enjoying.