Friday, October 19, 2012

Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine

A few weeks ago the Nobel Prize for medicine or physiology was awarded to Sir John B. Gurdon and Shinya Yamanaka.  It was announced to the world in five languages right here at the Karolinska Institute in the Nobel Forum (pronounced Faw-room) and it was quite a sight to behold.  People from the KI were queuing all the way around the side of the building to get a chance to see the announcement in person.  There were cameras and reporters, famous researchers, not-so-famous researchers, and me right in the thick of it!  For me, it was like waiting for a roller coaster.  I felt so excited to be able to watch history being made.  Once we started going in, a rush of excitement went through me.  I guess it's not really that big a deal to see the announcement; I suppose I could have just watched it on the internet, but there was something about being in the same room where it was actually announced that filled me with a sort of energy that I can only call excitement.
The people who won were groundbreaking researchers studying the potency of dedifferentiated adult mammalian cells. So basically, they were able to prove that some adult cells could be reprogrammed to turn into different cell types by this process called ''dedifferentiation''.  With this technique, the hope is that, sometime in the near future, physicians would be able to use a patient's own cells to be able to regrow damaged tissue.  This sort of tissue engineering is still in its nascent stages, but for instance, when people have
heart attacks, the number of functional heart cells drops significantly and there is a lot of scarring.  This scar is made up mostly of cells called fibroblasts.  Imagine, if doctors could dedifferentiate those ''scar cells'' and tell them to be heart cells instead!  Maybe they could save that person's life!  There are obviously a lot of technical and potentially moral and ethical hurdles to this type of cellular engineering, but it could be really beneficial in the long run.

Anyway, as I was standing there in line waiting to hear the decision, I began to get really excited about my own research.  I mean, I probably won't make any discoveries as groundbreaking as these, but I could potentially use my research to help a lot of people.  I guess that's why I'm doing this...maybe one day I'll really be able to make a difference.  

No comments:

Post a Comment