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Category → Veterinary Medicine

Gurdon and Yamanaka share Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine 2012

British scientist John B. Gurdon and Shinya Yamanaka (MD, PhD!), a Japanese scientist now at the Gladstone Institutes in San Francisco, were awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine this morning,  ”for the discovery that mature cells can be reprogrammed to become pluripotent.”

John B. Gurdon. Credit: nobelprize.org, Creative Commons Attri 2.0 license.

Briefly, Gurdon and colleagues showed that the genetic information from a mature, differentiated cell still had the ability to program an undifferentiated embryonic cell to develop into an adult organism. That is, an embryonic cell contains the chemical signals to use adult DNA to drive development of a new organism.

The work was done with the frog, Xenopus laevis,

and the technique came to be known as “nuclear transfer.” In colloquial terms, this is “cloning.” Current press reports are citing Gurdon’s work as occurring in 1962 but studies appear to have been published in Nature as early as 1958.

Christen Brownlee composed a superb summary of nuclear transfer for the Classics section of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Gurdon’s work stemmed from 1952 experiments of Robert Briggs and Thomas J. King with another frog, Rana pipens. Briggs died in 1983 and King in 2000 and could not be recognized with the Nobel. This fact relieved the Nobel committee, in my opinion, from having to decide which scientist would have been awarded the potential third slot for the prize. (Addendum 7:18 am EDT): I suspect that some argument will arise in support of UW-Madison’s James A. Thomson for the third slot as the Science paper from his group came out concomitantly with Yamanaka’s Cell paper. 8:21 am: The Guardian’s Alok Jha just reminded me that I overlooked Takahashi and Yamanaka’s earlier Cell paper from 2006. However, C&EN’s Carmen Drahl is now reporting this 2001 TIME magazine cover with Thomson.)

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Gooood morning, Santiiiiago!

My new Chilean colleagues: First-year medical students at the Universidad Finis Terrae in Santiago, Chile. Credit: Xaviera Cardenas

I love my blogs and my readers.

Last Friday morning, I had the delight of Skyping in to a medical school bioethics class at Universidad Finis Terrae to discuss the virtues and pitfalls of animal research. I was contacted earlier in the week by an email from Xaviera Cardenas, a first-year medical student at this university in Santiago, Chile, who was looking for an international scientist to hold forth on this topic.

Readers of GlobCasino know that any novel chemical you synthesize must undergo some animal testing before it can be used in people. This is not our choice as individuals but, instead, a requirement of our regulatory authorities. Despite advances with in vitro technologies, testing in a limited number of rodent and non-rodent species is absolutely required.
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If you can’t attract a bear with honey, use watermelon

Ursula, the senior black bear at Explore the Wild. Credit: Museum of Life and Science, Durham, NC.

I have nothing better for you today than this referral on a unique drug delivery device being used at the North Carolina Museum of Life and Science in Durham.

The drug in question is actually a veterinary product called Cosequin, a proprietary glucosamine and chondroitin supplement. It’s used for “joint support” so I think that’s the veterinary equivalent of a human dietary supplement – not exactly for disease “treatment.” However, there seems to be more scientific investigation of this veterinary supplement than for many other such products used by humans.

Bear with me (heh) while I get some work done at the day job and await a reply from an interview subject.

Douglas, Lana. Durham museum uses watermelon to medicate bears. News & Observer. 8 August 2011.

Update 18 October 2011 – We sad to follow up on this article with the announcement that Ursula had to be euthanized today following her rapid deterioration and loss of the use of her back legs entirely. Our thoughts are with our friends at the zoo on this sad day for our community.