John B. Gurdon and Shinya Yamanaka were awarded the 2012 Nobel Prize in Medicine and Physiology. The work of both researchers has revolutionized regenerative medicine by laying the foundation for reprogramming adult cells into pluripotent cells (mother).
It is one of the closest prizes to today, as Yamanaka’s works, which established the genes to be manipulated, are recent: he published them in 2006.
The Japanese researcher set the four genes that were key to converting adult cells (he did so with skin) to return to a state similar to that of embryonic cells, which could then be differentiated into any other tissue. This achieved what is already known as iPS (induced pluripotence cells). This material has the advantage that it is easy to get (you don’t need an embryo) and, in the future, that because they have the same genes as the person in which it is to be used, it will avoid rejections.
Britain’s Gurdon had already started the road 40 years earlier, when he showed that the nucleus of each cell kept the information to differentiate into any other tissue, and that what was happening was that the corresponding instructions were kept deactivated. To do this, in 1962 he performed the first cloning of a vertebrate: he introduced the nucleus of an intestinal cell of a toad into an egg (hence already adult and differentiated), and demonstrated that the embryo thus created was developed until the adult phase.
Gurdon and Yamanaka will become, respectively, the Nobel Prize winners of medicine number 200 and 201. The one of women who have received this recognition remains stagnant at 10.