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Sir John B. Gurdon (October 2, 1933)

Sir John Bertrand Gurdon, born on October 2, 1933 in Hampshire, England, is an English developmental biologist. He is well known for his pioneering research in nuclear transplantation and cloning. In 2009, he was awarded the Albert Lasker Award. In 2012, he and Shinya Yamanaka shared the Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine for the discovery that mature cells can be converted to pluripotent stem cells. His Nobel lecture was called “The Egg and the Nucleus: A Battle for Supremacy”.

In 1962, Gurdon discovered that the cells are reversible in an experiment with an egg cell of a frog. 40 years later Yamanaka discovered, how mature cells in mice could be reprogrammed to become immature stem cells “that are able to develop into all types of cells in the body. The work of Gurdon and Yamanaka led to a practical medical use for stem cell research.

In 1958, Gurdon, at the University of Oxford, successfully cloned a frog using intact nuclei from the somatic cells (intestinal cells) of a Xenopus tadpole. With the direction of Fischberg, Gurdon and colleagues also pioneered the use of Xenopus (genus of highly aquatic frog) eggs and oocytes to translate microinjected messenger RNA molecules, a technique which has been widely used to identify the proteins encoded and to study their function.

Gurdon’s recent research has focused on analysing intercellular signalling factors involved in cell differentiation, and on elucidating the mechanisms involved in reprogramming the nucleus in transplantation experiments, including the role of histone variants, and demethylation of the transplanted DNA.

Gurdon was made a Fellow of the Royal Society (FRS) in 1971, and was knighted in 1995. In 2004, the Wellcome Trust/Cancer Research UK Institute for Cell Biology and Cancer was renamed the Gurdon Institute in his honour. In 2005, he was elected as an Honorary Member of the American Association of Anatomists. In 2014 delivered the Harveian Oration at the Royal College of Physicians.

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