Nobel Prize in Medicine Awarded to Three Embryonic Stem Cell Researchers

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Oct 8, 2007   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Nobel Prize in Medicine Awarded to Three Embryonic Stem Cell Researchers Email this article
Printer friendly page

by Steven Ertelt Editor
October 8,

Stockholm, Sweden ( — Three researchers who work with controversial embryonic stem cells shared the Nobel Prize in medicine on Monday for their role in looking at mouse genes and using their studies to determine the human genes that cause diabetes, heart disease and cancer.

Pro-life advocates oppose embryonic stem cell research on human beings because days-old unborn children must be killed to obtain their cells. They support the use of animal and adult stem cells.

Americans Mario Capecchi and Oliver Smithies and British scientist Sir Martin Evans split the prestigious award and its prize of $1.5 million.

They were honored for a technique called gene targeting which lets scientists identify and alter the genes in mice. It allows them to study how the genes play a role in diseases.
"It’s marvelous news both with respect to our laboratory as well as our university," Capecchi told Reuters.

"What we developed is a way of modifying genes in the mouse which allows us to model human diseases, study their pathology as well as … developing new therapies."

The Nobel prize committed mentioned embryonic stem cell research in their citation to the scientists and said, they had discovered "principles for introducing specific gene modification in mice by the use of embryonic stem cells."

However, the science behind treating humans with embryonic stem cells and the work the scientists did is very different and embryonic stem cell treatments, if they’re ever produced, could be decades away because of various problems such as rejection by a patient’s immune system.

Adult stem cells have not had those problems and have already treated patients with dozens of diseases and medical conditions.

The scientists have not been without controversy as Capecchi has previously indicated he opposes President Bush’s policy of preventing taxpayers from being forced to pay for embryonic stem cell research because it involves the destruction of human life.

"I think stem cell therapy has enormous potential. It’s a crime not to actively pursue it," he said," according to AP.