Today’s Tweet: “It’s not unheard of, or verbotent, for cells to be pluripotent…” #nobelprize #currying_favor
The 2012 Nobel Prizes are being announced this week. The first one awarded is Best Lead Actor in a Physiology Comedy or Musical. I kid! I kid! [Though that would be awesome.]
But in all seriousness, the first category is the Nobel Prize is indeed the Physiology or Medicine category.This year it was awarded to two men, Shinya Yamanaka and Sir John B. Gurdon. Ironically, Gurdon’s work was published the same year Yamanaka was born. For another layer of irony, that same year, Watson and Crick were awarded their Nobel in Physiology.
But back to the present…Yamanaka feels deep gratitude to Gurdon’s work, that he couldn’t do his own stem cell discoveries without that precedent. [You just never know the kind of impact you can have in life, do you?] I could go on, but the interviews with each scientist are here
at the Nobel site. You can hear both men describe their work in their own words and in their own voices. That is so much better than the poor paraphrasing I could do on this blog.
Being a wordgeek, I was fascinated by the word pluripotent to describe stem cell behavior. It’s not a word I hear everyday.So I do what I always do–made a guess, then looked it up.
If you don’t know much about stem cells, it can be hard to guess where this term ‘stems’ from. ‘Taking it apart, though. “pluri” sounds like plural, as in “more than one”, and “potent” means power. “Plural power” is a pretty good hint phrase to this word’s meaning.
According to Webster’s Dictionary, pluripotent means “not fixed as to developmental potentialities; especially :capable of differentiating into one of many cell types”. It had been a prevalent belief that cells were the type they were, they couldn’t change. And while this is true of red blood cells, or organ tissue cells, white blood cells, for instance, it is not true of stem cells at all.
If these cells only started and ended their development at the same time, no procreation or growth would be successful. Think about all the changes just our body, not to mention our worldview and self-realization have undergone since we were in diapers. I could wax philosophic that people are more like stem cells than they realize, full of pluripotential, which is actually a word too.
But I think that’s another post, for another time, for another blog.