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John Bertrand Gurdon
John Gurdon Cambridge 2012.JPG
Born 2 October 1933 (1933-10-02) (age 87)
Nationality British
Alma mater Christ Church, Oxford
Known for Nuclear transfer, cloning
Awards Wolf Prize in Medicine (1989)
Albert Lasker Basic Medical Research Award (2009)
Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine (2012)
Scientific career
Fields Developmental biology
Institutions University of Oxford
University of Cambridge
California Institute of Technology
Thesis Studies on nucleocytoplasmic relationships during differentiation in vertebrates (1961)
Doctoral advisor Michael Fischberg

Sir John Bertrand Gurdon (JBG) FRS (born 2 October 1933) is a British developmental biologist. He is best known for his pioneering research in nuclear transplantation, and cloning.

Nuclear transplantation means taking the nucleus out of cells in tissue culture and putting them into other cells whose nucleus has been removed. It is called somatic cell nuclear transfer. In this way, specialised cells can be "reprogrammed" to become like stem cells.

Honours and awards

Gurdon was made a Fellow of the Royal Society 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. He has also received numerous awards, medals and honorary degrees. He has been awarded the 2009 Albert Lasker Basic Medical Research award.

Nobel Prize

In 2012 Gurdon was awarded, jointly with Shinya Yamanaka, the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine "for the discovery that mature cells can be reprogrammed to become pluripotent". "Pluripotent" cells are stem cells.


Nuclear transfer

In 1958, Gurdon, then at the University of Oxford, successfully cloned a frog using intact nuclei from the somatic cells of a Xenopus tadpole. This was an important extension of work of Briggs and King in 1952 on transplanting nuclei from embryonic blastula cells.

Gurdon’s experiments captured the attention of the scientific community and the tools and techniques he developed for nuclear transfer are still used today.

At that time he could not conclusively show that the transplanted nuclei derived from a fully differentiated cell. This was finally shown in 1975 by a group working at the Basel Institute for Immunology in Switzerland. They transplanted a nucleus from an antibody-producing lymphocyte (proof that it was fully differentiated) into an enucleated egg and got living tadpoles.

Gurdon’s experiments captured the attention of the scientific community and the tools and techniques he developed for nuclear transfer are still used today. The term 'clone' (from the ancient Greek word κλών klōn = “twig”) was already in use since the beginning of the 20th century in reference to plants. In 1963 the British biologist J.B.S. Haldane, in describing Gurdon’s results, became one of the first to use the word "clone" in reference to animals.

He was awarded the Lasker Award in 2009 and the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 2012.

Messenger RNA expression

Gurdon and colleagues also pioneered the use of Xenopus eggs to translate microinjected messenger RNA molecules. This technique has been widely used to identify the proteins encoded, and to study their function.

Recent research

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 demethylation of the transplanted DNA.

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