Reactions to the award of the Nobel Prize for Medicine 2012

Publié le : 12 October 2012

After being awarded the Nobel Prize for Medicine 2012, the British biologist John B. Gurdon said that he was "immensely honoured to be awarded this spectacular recognition, and delighted to be due to receive it with Shinya Yamanaka, whose work has brought the whole field within the realistic expectation of therapeutic benefits.

Other scientists have also reacted. Prof. Marc Peschanski (ISTEM – INSERM) stated that "this Nobel Prize is an excellent piece of news. Yamanaka created the concept of cellular reprogramming. […] [One of the] key advantages of IPS cells [induced pluripotent stem cells] is modelling: we can make cell lines from donors affected by genetic diseases and obtain cultures enabling the screening of potentially therapeutic molecules." Jean-Marc Lemaitre, from the Functional Genome Institute (INSERM), said that the findings of the Japanese researcher Shinya Yamanaka, were "a truly exceptional discovery".

For its part, the Fondation Jérôme Lejeune, stated that it was "delighted with this award of the Nobel Prize to Prof. Yamanaka" and said that it "regretted that the French Biomedicine Agency had waited several years before making any reference to this major discovery which provided an alternative to research on the embryo, which the Agency continued to authorise by special dispensation in questionable conditions." Furthermore, the foundation "calls on the political authorities to send a clear and credible message to the international scientific community: France fully commits its research forces to working on non embryonic stem cells."

Julian Savulescu, Professor of Ethics at Oxford University, points out: "for his work, Mr Yamanaka deserves not just a Nobel Prize for Medicine, but also a Nobel Prize for Ethics." Likewise, "the choice of the Nobel committee was applauded by the ‘father’ of Dolly the sheep, the Briton Ian Wilmut, who underlined this ‘important and innovative’ work" and pointed out "the major therapeutic advantage" of IPS cells. Ian Wilmut says that because these cells "are genetically identical to the patient, they enable the modelling of diseases and allow research to be done rapidly on medications to treat the symptoms of the disease upstream," adding that "there already exists a hundred of these cell lines on which we can work without having to wait for 5 years from now to understand these diseases."

In practice, "IPS cells can become a source of cells for doing everything, for example, testing new medications or studying diseases." Furthermore, "for experimental cellular therapy, they do not a priori carry any risk of being rejected by the organism because they come from patients themselves." He concludes: "in 2013, a clinical trial of ‘harmlessness’ to be carried out in Kobe in Japan will be using this technique for the first time in a trial on the retina with patients suffering from age-related macular degeneration (AMD).

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