Sir John B. Gurdon will deliver the 2014 SOT Annual Meeting Plenary Lecture, The Origins and Future of Pluripotency and Cellular Reprogramming, on Monday, March 24, 8:00 am–9:00 am in the Phoenix Convention Center. The different cell types that compose our bodies are remarkably stable. Hardly ever do we find skin cells in the brain or liver cells in the heart. In those very special cases where some regeneration can take place in vertebrates, there is little if any evidence for a switch in cell type. Nevertheless, nuclear transfer, cell fusion, and induced pluripotency can result in pluripotent embryo cells being derived from specialized adult cells.
The mechanisms by which nuclear reprogramming can occur in these cases is beginning to be understood. It may become possible for new, regenerated cell types to be derived from adult cells and given back to a patient so that they receive new cells of their own genetic constitution, thereby avoiding the need for immunosuppression. The history of work in this area, and the prospects for cell replacement in the future, will be discussed.
John B. Gurdon was a zoology undergraduate at Oxford University and returned, after a postdoc year at CalTech, as Lecturer in Embryology. In 1971, he joined the MRC molecular biology lab in Cambridge to continue his work on amphibian developmental biology. In 1983, as John Humphrey Plummer Professor of Cell Biology at the University of Cambridge, he co-founded a research institute of developmental and cancer biology (now named the Gurdon Institute) with Professor Laskey, acting as Chairman until 2002.
His career has concentrated on nuclear transplantation in the frog and experiments to discover the value of mRNA microinjection, mechanisms of response to morphogen gradients, and recently, mechanisms of nuclear reprogramming by Xenopus oocytes and eggs. Master of Magdalene College Cambridge from 1995–2002, he has received various recognitions, including the 2009 Lasker Award for Basic Medical Science and the Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine in 2012.