Christopher Wylie and Janet Heasman Honored with SDB Lifetime Achievement Award

February 13th, 2014 @

Story source: Xenbase

Xenbase and Xenopus research community congratulate Christopher Wylie and Janet Heasman for a lifetime of achievement and their lasting impact on Developmental Biology.  Together and individually, Janet and Chris discovered many fundamental cell and embryological processes, which are now the mainstay of Developmental Biology text books.

Chris Wylie started his research career in 1963, at University College Hospital Medical School, followed by his BSc in 1966, and his PhD in 1971. He lectured in Anatomy at University College London (importantly he soon met Janet there, and through happenstance, never did finish his MD) and St. George’s Hospital Medical School, where he was Chair and Professor of Anatomy and Embryology.

Janet started in medical school at University College London in 1971 and gained her BSc in anatomy in 1974. She then completed her PhD in 1979, studying the formation and migration of primordial germ cells in Xenopus, with Chris Wylie. In the 1980’s, Janet lectured in Anatomy in London and at Harvard Medical School, publishing numerous papers on cell fate and cell movement, before she and Chris accepted posts at the University of Cambridge, Zoology Department in 1988.

In Cambridge, Janet & Chris were part of the founding group (along with John Gurdon, Ron Laskey, and Martin Evans) whom successfully petitioned the UK’s two big funding agencies, the Wellcome Trust and the Cancer Research Campaign, to fund a major center for Developmental Biology in Cambridge. Originally named the Wellcome Trust/Cancer Research Campaign Institute for Cell and Developmental Biology, the globally important center was recently renamed The Gurdon Institute.

In 1994 the Wylie-Heasman lab moved to the University of Minnesota School of Medicine, to build a Developmental Biology Center.Chris’s goal was to bring together the “basic science underlying organogenesis with the clinical results of organ dysgenesis”. Continuing to promote Developmental Biology as an integral component of modern biomedical research, Wylie and Heasman relocated to theDivision of Developmental Biology at Cincinnati Children’s Research Foundation in 2000. As division director Chris built a major center of organogenesis research, assembling a team of 22 primary DB faculty, along with 22 cross-appointed faculty from 17 different clinical divisions at the hospital. The result was close and productive interactions between the basic research scientists and clinicians – to provide better diagnoses, treatments and ultimately cures, for childhood disorders.

Throughout their careers, Chris and Janet made many important discoveries on fundamental aspects of development using Xenopus as a model system. With over 120 research publications their significant contributions include important discoveries on germ cell formation and migration, the critical functions of the cytoskeleton and cell adhesion in the early embryo, role of maternal factors such transcription factor VegT and nodal signaling in germ layer formation, and they demonstrated that Wnt/beta-catenin signaling controls dorsal axis formation in vertebrates. They also pioneered new approaches to knockdown gene function in Xenopus. They developed the “antisense oligo mediated host-transfer” technique to deplete maternal mRNAs in the oocyte and they were the first to use antisense morpholinos in Xenopus; see Heasman Kofron and Wylie (2000).

Both Chris and Janet are exceptionally gifted lecturers and mentors. They trained and inspired several generations of developmental biologists through their own lab, and through their years of teaching at the MBL Woods Hole Embryology and the Cold Spring Harbor Xenopus courses.

Another lasting impact was Wylie’s transformation of the journal JEEM into the modern high impact journal Development in 1986. He served as Editor in Chief of Development for 16 years. Wylie also served at the SDB president and received the British Society for Developmental Biology ‘s Waddington Medal in 2011.

Since retiring in 2011, Janet has focused on women’s advocacy and creative writing. Chris retired in 2013, and the family relocated to Vermont, to enjoy the good life. They still keep a two-headed training stereo microscope in their home to show their grandchildren the fascinating developing tadpoles from the local pond.

The SDB awards presentations will take place during the Awards Lectures session at the 73rd Annual SDB Meeting at the University of Washington, Seattle, WA, Sunday, July 20, 2014.

Richard Harland Awarded 2014 Conklin Medal

February 13th, 2014 @

Story source: Xenbase

The Society for Developmental Biology’s E.G. Conklin Medal recognizes a developmental biologist “who has made and is continuing to make extraordinary research contributions to the field, and who is also an excellent mentor who has helped train the next generation of outstanding scientists.”

Richard Harland has an extraordinary research legacy. Following his pioneering work on DNA replication in vertebrates during his PhD with Ron Laskey, he transitioned to developmental biology as a postdoc with Hal Weintraub in the early 1980’s. He took a faculty position at UC Berkeley in 1985, studying the control of embryonic gene expression in vertebrate embryos. He helped development of whole-mount in situ hybridization methods in the 1980’s, and recently he played an important role in sequencing the genomes of Xenopus tropicalis (follow this link to a video from UC Berkeley) and X. laevis. The Harland laboratory remains a powerhouse of developmental biology and continues to explore issues of induction and early patterning in vertebrates.

The author of over 150 papers, perhaps his most significant early discoveries centered around the action of BMP antagonists, stemming from his cloning of noggin and the subsequent delineation of its mechanism of action by binding to BMP ligands. These discoveries not only revealed that BMP antagonists are fundamental for the patterning of early germ layers, but also provided the long-sought molecular basis for the Spemann-Mangold Organizer effect. In addition to the BMP antagonists, the Harland lab has also clarified our understanding of neural induction and patterning, FGF signaling, planar cell polarity, and the developmental control of RNA splicing.

Richard Harland has been, and continues to be a leader in education and an excellent mentor. Richard has trained dozens of graduate students and postdocs, and over 100 undergraduates have passed through his lab. He successfully created a laboratory environment in which researchers have thrived, with Harland Lab alumni actively working in developmental biology at universities throughout the USA and around the world. He taught the MBL Embryology course for over 15 years, and has contributed to the CSHL Xenopus course, where he co-authored the ubiquitous textbook “Early Development of Xenopus laevis: A Laboratory Manual.” He served as SDB president from 2009-2010.

The SDB awards presentations will take place during the Awards Lectures session at the 73rd Annual SDB Meeting at the University of Washington, Seattle, WA, Sunday, July 20, 2014.

Congratulations new NAS members Eddy De Robertis and Nick Spitzer

May 9th, 2013 @

News from the National Academy of Sciences

Date: April 30, 2013

Source: National Academy of Science

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
National Academy of Sciences Members and Foreign Associates Elected

The National Academy of Sciences announced today the election of 84 new members and 21 foreign associates from 14 countries in recognition of their distinguished and continuing achievements in original research.

Those elected today bring the total number of active members to 2,179 and the total number of foreign associates to 437. Foreign associates are nonvoting members of the Academy, with citizenship outside the United States.

Newly elected members and their affiliations at the time of election are:

Andrei, Eva Y.; professor, department of physics and astronomy, Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, Piscataway

Anseth, Kristi S.; investigator, Howard Hughes Medical Institute, and Distinguished Professor, department of chemical and biological engineering, University of Colorado, Boulder

Aslin, Richard N.; William R. Kenan Professor of Brain and Cognitive Sciences, department of brain and cognitive sciences, University of Rochester, Rochester, N.Y.

Asner, Gregory P.; faculty scientist, department of global ecology, Carnegie Institution for Science, Stanford, Calif.

Baldwin, Ian T.; director, department of molecular ecology, Max Planck Institute for Chemical Ecology, Jena, Germany

Barres, Ben A.; professor and chair, department of neurobiology, Stanford University School of Medicine, Stanford, Calif.

Berger, James M.; professor of biochemistry and molecular biology, department of molecular and cell biology, University of California, Berkeley

Beverley, Stephen M.; Marvin A. Brennecke Professor of Molecular Microbiology and Chair, department of molecular microbiology, Washington University School of Medicine, St. Louis

Bhargava, Manjul; professor of mathematics, department of mathematics, Princeton University, Princeton, N.J.

Boeke, Jef D.; professor of molecular biology and genetics, department of molecular biology and genetics, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore

Breaker, Ronald R.; investigator, Howard Hughes Medical Institute, and Henry Ford II Professor, department of molecular, cellular, and developmental biology, Yale University, New Haven, Conn.

Brown, James A.; professor, department of anthropology, Northwestern University, Evanston, Ill.

Brown, Michael E.; Richard and Barbara Rosenberg Professor, division of geological and planetary sciences, California Institute of Technology, Pasadena

Cane, Mark A.; G. Unger Vetlesen Professor of Earth and Climate Sciences, department of earth and environmental sciences, Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory of Columbia University, Palisades, N.Y.

Chen, Xuemei; investigator, Howard Hughes Medical Institute and the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, and professor, department of botany and plant sciences, University of California, Riverside

De Robertis, Edward M.; investigator, Howard Hughes Medical Institute, and professor of biological chemistry and Norman Sprague Professor, School of Medicine, University of California, Los Angeles

Deng, Xing-Wang; Daniel C. Eaton Chair of Plant Biology, department of molecular, cellular, and developmental biology, Yale University, New Haven, Conn.

Dixit, Vishva M.; vice president of discovery research, Genentech, San Francisco

Dubcovsky, Jorge; investigator, Howard Hughes Medical Institute and the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, and professor, department of plant sciences, University of California, Davis

Farley, Kenneth A.; W.M. Keck Foundation Professor of Geochemistry and chair, division of geological and planetary sciences, California Institute of Technology, Pasadena

Feldman, Marcus W.; director, Morrison Institute for Population and Resource Studies, and Burnet C. and Mildred Finley Wohlford Professor of Biological Sciences, department of biological sciences, Stanford University, Stanford, Calif.

Field, Robert W.; Haslam and Dewey Professor of Chemistry, department of chemistry, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge

Fiske, Susan T.; Eugene Higgins Professor of Psychology, department of psychology, Princeton University, Princeton, N.J.

Fotheringham, A. Stewart; professor and director, Centre for Geoinformatics, School of Geography and Geosciences, University of St. Andrews, United Kingdom

Fox, Robin; University Professor of Social Theory, department of anthropology, Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, New Brunswick

Fradkin, Eduardo H.; professor of physics, department of physics, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign

Francisco, Joseph S.; associate dean of research and graduate education, College of Science, and William E. Moore Distinguished Professor, departments of chemistry and of earth and atmospheric sciences, Purdue University, West Lafayette, Ind.

Freeman, Katherine H.; professor, department of geosciences, Pennsylvania State University, University Park

Gates, S. James, Jr.; University System of Maryland Regents Professor and the John S. Toll Professor of Physics, department of physics, University of Maryland, College Park

Goodnow, Christopher C.; professor of immunology and head, department of immunology, John Curtin School of Medical Research, Australian National University, Canberra City, Australia

Gruebele, Martin; James R. Eiszner Professor of Chemistry, department of chemistry, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign

Halas, Naomi J.; Stanley C. Moore Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science and director, Laboratory for Nanophotonics, Rice University, Houston

Hammes-Schiffer, Sharon; professor of chemistry, department of chemistry, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign

Hartmanis, Juris; Walter R. Read Professor of Computer Science and Engineering, Emeritus, department of computer science, Cornell University, Ithaca, N.Y.

Heeger, David; professor of psychology and neural science, department of psychology and Center for Neural Science, New York University, New York City

Ho, Wilson; Donald Bren Professor of Physics and Astronomy and of Chemistry, departments of physics and astronomy and of chemistry, University of California, Irvine

Hobbie, Sarah E.; professor, department of ecology, University of Minnesota, St. Paul

Jacobs, William R., Jr.; investigator, Howard Hughes Medical Institute, and professor, departments of microbiology and immunology and of molecular genetics, Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University, Bronx, N.Y.

Kac, Victor; professor of mathematics, department of mathematics, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge

Kaplan, David B.; director, Institute for Nuclear Theory, and professor, department of physics, University of Washington, Seattle

Kapteyn, Henry C.; professor of physics and fellow, JILA, University of Colorado, Boulder

Knowlton, Nancy; Sant Chair in Marine Science, department of invertebrate zoology, National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.

Kouveliotou, Chryssa; astrophysicist and senior scientist for high energy astrophysics, Science and Technology Office, NASA George C. Marshall Space Flight Center, Huntsville, Ala.

Kuroda, Mitzi I.; professor, department of genetics and department of medicine, Harvard Medical School, Boston

Lawler, Gregory F.; professor of mathematics, department of mathematics, University of Chicago, Chicago

LeDoux, Joseph E.; Henry and Lucy Moses Professor of Science, Center for Neural Science, New York University, New York City

Levine, Beth; investigator, Howard Hughes Medical Institute, and Charles Cameron Sprague Distinguished Chair in Biomedical Science and professor, University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, Dallas

Lidstrom, Mary E.; vice provost for research and Jungers Professor of Chemical Engineering and Microbiology, Office of Research, University of Washington, Seattle

Maldacena, Juan; professor, School of Natural Sciences, Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton, N.J.

Mayhew, David R.; Sterling Professor of Political Science and professor, Institute of Social and Policy Studies, department of political science, Yale University, New Haven, Conn.

Mignot, Emmanuel; director, Center for Sleep Sciences and Medicine, and professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences, Stanford University School of Medicine, Palo Alto, Calif.

Mortensen, Dale; Board of Trustees Professor, department of economics, Northwestern University, Evanston, Ill.

Narayan, Ramesh; Thomas Dudley Cabot Professor of the Natural Sciences, Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, Harvard University, Cambridge, Mass.

Novick, Peter J.; professor of cellular and molecular medicine and George Palade Endowed Chair, department of cellular and molecular medicine, University of California, San Diego

Nussenzweig, Ruth S.; C.V. Starr Professor of Medical and Molecular Parasitology and Pathology, department of pathology, Langone Medical Center, New York University School of Medicine, New York City

Otto, Sarah P.; director, Biodiversity Research Centre, and professor and Canada Research Chair, department of zoology, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada

Perrimon, Norbert; investigator, Howard Hughes Medical Institute, and professor, department of genetics, Harvard Medical School, Boston

Plank, Terry A.; professor, department of earth and environmental sciences, Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory of Columbia University, Palisades, N.Y.

Portnoy, Daniel A.; professor of biochemistry, biophysics, and structural biology, department of molecular and cell biology, University of California, Berkeley

Quake, Stephen R.; investigator, Howard Hughes Medical Institute, and Lee Otterson Professor, departments of bioengineering and of applied physics, Stanford University, Stanford, Calif.

Rabe, Karin M.; Distinguished Professor of Physics, department of physics and astronomy, Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, Piscataway

Roth, Alvin E.; Craig and Susan McCaw Professor and Senior Fellow, Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research, department of economics, Stanford University, Stanford, Calif.

Schacter, Daniel L.; William R. Kenan Professor, department of psychology, Harvard University, Cambridge, Mass.

Schreiber, Robert D.; Alumni Endowed Professor of Pathology and Immunology and Head, Tumor Immunology Program, Siteman Cancer Center, Washington University School of Medicine, St. Louis

Seinfeld, John H.; Louis E. Nohl Professor, department of chemical engineering, California Institute of Technology, Pasadena

Sethian, James A.; professor of mathematics, department of mathematics, University of California, Berkeley

Simmons, Beth A.; Clarence Dillon Professor of International Affairs and director, Weatherhead Center for International Affairs, Harvard University, Cambridge, Mass.

Singer, Robert H.; co-director, Gruss Lipper Biophotonics Center, and professor and co-chair, department of anatomy and structural biology, Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University, Bronx, N.Y.

Spitzer, Nicholas C.; Distinguished Professor of Biological Sciences, division of biological sciences, University of California, San Diego

Staudt, Louis M.; deputy chief, metabolism branch, Center for Cancer Research, National Cancer Institute, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Md.

Strassmann, Joan E.; professor, department of biology, Washington University, St. Louis

Stucky, Galen D.; professor, departments of chemistry and biochemistry and of materials, University of California, Santa Barbara

Tardos, Éva; Jacob Gould Schurman Professor of Computer Science, department of computer science, Cornell University, Ithaca, N.Y.

Turrigiano, Gina; professor, department of biology, Brandeis University, Waltham, Mass.

Vanderbilt, David; Board of Governors Professor of Physics, department of physics and astronomy, Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, Piscataway

Vogan, David A., Jr.; professor of mathematics, department of mathematics, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge

Wagner, Gerhard; Elkan Rogers Blout Professor of Biological Chemistry and Molecular Pharmacology, department of biological chemistry and molecular pharmacology, Harvard Medical School, Boston

Walker, Graham C.; professor, department of biology, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge

Wigderson, Avi; Herbert H. Maass Professor, School of Mathematics, Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton, N.J.

Willard, Huntington F.; Nanaline H. Duke Professor of Genome Sciences and director, Institute for Genome Sciences and Policy, Duke University, Durham, N.C.

Winston, Fred M.; John Emory Andrus Professor of Genetics, department of genetics, Harvard Medical School, Boston

Wright, Ernest M.; Distinguished Professor of Physiology and Mellinkoff Professor in Medicine, department of physiology, School of Medicine, University of California, Los Angeles

Yang, Wei; senior investigator and section chief, Laboratory of Molecular Biology, National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Md.

Yau, Horng-Tzer; professor of mathematics, department of mathematics, Harvard University, Cambridge, Mass.

Newly elected foreign associates, their affiliations at the time of election, and their country of citizenship are:

Alitalo, Kari; Academy Professor, Molecular Cancer Biology Program, Biomedicum Helsinki, University of Helsinki, Finland (Finland)

Bagnato, Vanderlei S.; professor of physics, Instituto de Fisica de São Carlos, University of São Paulo, Brazil (Brazil)

Bond, William J.; Harry Bolus Professor of Botany, department of botany, University of Cape Town, Rondebosch, South Africa (South Africa)

Charlesworth, Brian; Royal Society Research Professor, Institute of Evolutionary Biology, University of Edinburgh, United Kingdom (United Kingdom)

Che, Chi-Ming; Dr. Hui Wai-Haan Chair of Chemistry, department of chemistry, University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong (People’s Republic of China)

Denk, Winfried; director, department of biomedical optics, Max Planck Institute for Medical Research, Heidelberg, Germany (Germany)

Dobson, Christopher M.; John Humphrey Plummer Professor of Chemical and Structural Biology, department of chemistry, University of Cambridge, United Kingdom (United Kingdom)

Farquhar, Graham D.; professor, group leader, and Distinguished Professor of Environmental Biology, environmental research group, Research School of Biological Science, Australian National University, Canberra City, Australia (Australia)

Frangipane, Marcella; director, Sapienza Archaeological Expedition in Eastern Anatolia and professor of Near Eastern archaeology, School of Archaeology, University of Rome, Italy (Italy)

Georges, Michel A.J.; full professor, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, University of Liège, Belgium (Belgium)

Hall, Peter G.; Australian Laureate Fellow, department of mathematics and statistics, University of Melbourne, Victoria, Australia (Australia)

Kawaoka, Yoshihiro; professor, department of pathobiological sciences, University of Wisconsin, Madison (Japan)

Leakey, Meave G.; research professor, Stony Brook University, New York (Kenya)

Lo, Yuk-Ming Dennis; Li Ka Shing Professor of Medicine and director, Li Ka Shing Institute of Health Sciences, The Chinese University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong (People’s Republic of China/United Kingdom)

Neuberger, Michael S.; permanent scientific staff and joint head, division of protein and nucleic acid chemistry, Medical Research Council Laboratory of Molecular Biology, Cambridge, United Kingdom (United Kingdom)

Pendry, John B.; professor, department of physics, and chair of theoretical solid state physics, Imperial College London, United Kingdom (United Kingdom)

Rosero-Bixby, Luís; professor, School of Statistics and Health Research Institute, University of Costa Rica, San José (Costa Rica/Ecuador)

Shi, Yigong; Endowed Professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology and dean, School of Life Sciences, Tsinghua University, Beijing, People’s Republic of China (People’s Republic of China)

Shimomura, Osamu; senior scientist, Marine Biological Laboratory, Falmouth, Mass. (Japan)

Weiss, Robin A.; senior research fellow and emeritus professor of viral oncology, division of infection and immunity, Wohl Virion Centre, University College London, United Kingdom (United Kingdom)

Zeilinger, Anton; professor of experimental physics, Faculty of Physics, University of Vienna, Austria (Austria)

Contact: Office of News and Public Information 202-334-2138; news@nas.edu

 

 

NXR Frog Sale

October 17th, 2012 @

 

The National Xenopus Resource Center is currently offering the following frog lines at half price:

 

Xenopus laevis Elastase-GFP

Xenopus laevis Venus YFP

 

If you are interested in these lines, please email Xenopus@mbl.edu

Nobel Prize in Physiology/Medicine 2012 Awarded to Sir John B. Gurdon and Shinya Yamanaka

October 9th, 2012 @

For Immediate Release: October 9, 2012

Source: http://www.nobelprize.org/

The Nobel Assembly at Karolinska Institutet has today decided to award

The Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine 2012

jointly to

John B. Gurdon and Shinya Yamanaka

for the discovery that mature cells can be reprogrammed
to become pluripotent

Summary

The Nobel Prize recognizes two scientists who discovered that mature, specialised cells can be reprogrammed to become immature cells capable of developing into all tissues of the body. Their findings have revolutionised our understanding of how cells and organisms develop.

John B. Gurdon discovered in 1962 that the specialisation of cells is reversible. In a classic experiment, he replaced the immature cell nucleus in an egg cell of a frog with the nucleus from a mature intestinal cell. This modified egg cell developed into a normal tadpole. The DNA of the mature cell still had all the information needed to develop all cells in the frog.

Shinya Yamanaka discovered more than 40 years later, in 2006, how intact mature cells in mice could be reprogrammed to become immature stem cells. Surprisingly, by introducing only a few genes, he could reprogram mature cells to become pluripotent stem cells, i.e. immature cells that are able to develop into all types of cells in the body.

These groundbreaking discoveries have completely changed our view of the development and cellular specialisation. We now understand that the mature cell does not have to be confined forever to its specialised state. Textbooks have been rewritten and new research fields have been established. By reprogramming human cells, scientists have created new opportunities to study diseases and develop methods for diagnosis and therapy.

Life – a journey towards increasing specialisation

All of us developed from fertilized egg cells. During the first days after conception, the embryo consists of immature cells, each of which is capable of developing into all the cell types that form the adult organism. Such cells are called pluripotent stem cells. With further development of the embryo, these cells give rise to nerve cells, muscle cells, liver cells and all other cell types – each of them specialised to carry out a specific task in the adult body. This journey from immature to specialised cell was previously considered to be unidirectional. It was thought that the cell changes in such a way during maturation that it would no longer be possible for it to return to an immature, pluripotent stage.

Frogs jump backwards in development

John B. Gurdon challenged the dogma that the specialised cell is irreversibly committed to its fate. He hypothesised that its genome might still contain all the information needed to drive its development into all the different cell types of an organism. In 1962, he tested this hypothesis by replacing the cell nucleus of a frog’s egg cell with a nucleus from a mature, specialised cell derived from the intestine of a tadpole. The egg developed into a fully functional, cloned tadpole and subsequent repeats of the experiment yielded adult frogs. The nucleus of the mature cell had not lost its capacity to drive development to a fully functional organism.

Gurdon’s landmark discovery was initially met with scepticism but became accepted when it had been confirmed by other scientists. It initiated intense research and the technique was further developed, leading eventually to the cloning of mammals. Gurdon’s research taught us that the nucleus of a mature, specialized cell can be returned to an immature, pluripotent state. But his experiment involved the removal of cell nuclei with pipettes followed by their introduction into other cells. Would it ever be possible to turn an intact cell back into a pluripotent stem cell?

A roundtrip journey – mature cells return to a stem cell state

Shinya Yamanaka was able to answer this question in a scientific breakthrough more than 40 years after Gurdon´s discovery. His research concerned embryonal stem cells, i.e. pluripotent stem cells that are isolated from the embryo and cultured in the laboratory. Such stem cells were initially isolated from mice by Martin Evans (Nobel Prize 2007) and Yamanaka tried to find the genes that kept them immature. When several of these genes had been identified, he tested whether any of them could reprogram mature cells to become pluripotent stem cells.

Yamanaka and his co-workers introduced these genes, in different combinations, into mature cells from connective tissue, fibroblasts, and examined the results under the microscope. They finally found a combination that worked, and the recipe was surprisingly simple. By introducing four genes together, they could reprogram their fibroblasts into immature stem cells!

The resulting induced pluripotent stem cells (iPS cells) could develop into mature cell types such as fibroblasts, nerve cells and gut cells. The discovery that intact, mature cells could be reprogrammed into pluripotent stem cells was published in 2006 and was immediately considered a major breakthrough.

From surprising discovery to medical use

The discoveries of Gurdon and Yamanaka have shown that specialised cells can turn back the developmental clock under certain circumstances. Although their genome undergoes modifications during development, these modifications are not irreversible. We have obtained a new view of the development of cells and organisms.

Research during recent years has shown that iPS cells can give rise to all the different cell types of the body. These discoveries have also provided new tools for scientists around the world and led to remarkable progress in many areas of medicine. iPS cells can also be prepared from human cells.

For instance, skin cells can be obtained from patients with various diseases, reprogrammed, and examined in the laboratory to determine how they differ from cells of healthy individuals. Such cells constitute invaluable tools for understanding disease mechanisms and so provide new opportunities to develop medical therapies.

Sir John B. Gurdon was born in 1933 in Dippenhall, UK. He received his Doctorate from the University of Oxford in 1960 and was a postdoctoral fellow at California Institute of Technology. He joined Cambridge University, UK, in 1972 and has served as Professor of Cell Biology and Master of Magdalene College. Gurdon is currently at the Gurdon Institute in Cambridge.

Shinya Yamanaka was born in Osaka, Japan in 1962. He obtained his MD in 1987 at Kobe University and trained as an orthopaedic surgeon before switching to basic research. Yamanaka received his PhD at Osaka City University in 1993, after which he worked at the Gladstone Institute in San Francisco and Nara Institute of Science and Technology in Japan. Yamanaka is currently Professor at Kyoto University and also affiliated with the Gladstone Institute.

 

 

Key publications:

Gurdon, J.B. (1962). The developmental capacity of nuclei taken from intestinal epithelium cells of feeding tadpoles. Journal of Embryology and Experimental Morphology 10:622-640.
Takahashi, K., Yamanaka, S. (2006). Induction of pluripotent stem cells from mouse embryonic and adult fibroblast cultures by defined factors. Cell 126:663-676.