John Gurdon

John Gurdon

Infobox Scientist
name = John Bertrand Gurdon

birth_date = birth date and age |1933|10|2|df=y
birth_place =
death_date =
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nationality = British
field = Developmental biology
work_institutions = University of Cambridge
Gurdon Institute
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known_for = Nuclear transfer, cloning
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prizes = Wolf Prize in Medicine (1989)
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Sir John Bertrand Gurdon, FRS (b. 2 October 1933) is a British developmental biologist. He is best known for his pioneering research in nuclear transplantation and cloning.


Gurdon studied with Michael Fischberg at Oxford, and then did postdoctural work at Caltech. [ Rodney Porter Lectures: Biography] ] His early posts were at the Department of Zoology of the University of Oxford (1962–71).

Gurdon has spent much of his research career in Cambridge, UK, first at the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology (1971–83) and then at the Department of Zoology, University of Cambridge (1983–date). In 1989, he was a founding member of the Wellcome/CRC Institute for Cell Biology and Cancer (later Wellcome/CR UK) in Cambridge, and was its Chair until 2001. He was Master of Magdalene College, Cambridge from 1995 to 2002. He is Chairman of the Company of Biologists.


Nuclear transfer

In 1962, Gurdon, then at Oxford University, announced that he had used the nucleus of fully differentiated adult intestinal cells to clone South African clawed frogs ("Xenopus laevis"). [Gurdon, JB (1962) The developmental capacity of nuclei taken from intestinal epithelium cells of feeding tadpoles. "J Embryol Exp Morphol" 10: 622–40] This was the first demonstration in animals that the nucleus of a differentiated somatic cell retains the potential to develop into all cell types ("ie", is totipotent) and paved the way for future somatic cell nuclear transfer experiments, including the 1996 cloning of the sheep, Dolly.

Gurdon's results electrified the scientific community, but some scientists remained skeptical and began to find flaws in his work. Gurdon began cloning experiments using nonembryonic cells—specifically, cells from the intestinal lining of tadpoles. Gurdon believed that the tadpoles were old enough so that cells taken from them would be differentiated. Gurdon exposed a frog egg to ultraviolet light, which destroyed its nucleus. He then removed the nucleus from the tadpole intestinal cell and implanted it in the enucleated egg. The egg grew into a tadpole that was genetically identical to the DNA-donating tadpole. But the tadpoles cloned in Gurdon’s early experiments never survived to adulthood and scientists now believe that many of the cells used in these experiments may not have been differentiated cells after all. In later work, however, Gurdon successfully produced sexually mature adult frogs from eggs into which genetically marked nuclei had been transplanted from differentiated tadpole cells. [reviewed in [ Campbell, N (2004) Turning back time: Milestones in Development. Nature Milestones] ]

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 Greek word klōn, meaning “twig”) had already been 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.

Messenger RNA expression

Gurdon and colleagues also pioneered the use of "Xenopus" eggs and oocytes to translate microinjected messenger RNA molecules, [Gurdon, JB, Lane, CD, Woodland, HR, Marbaix, G (1971) Use of frog eggs and oocytes for the study of messenger RNA and its translation in living cells. "Nature" 233:177–82] a technique which 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. [Simonsson, S, Gurdon, JB (2004) DNA demethylation is necessary for the epigenetic reprogramming of somatic cell nuclei. "Nature Cell Biol" 6: 984–90]

Honours and awards

Gurdon was made a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1971, and was knighted in 1995. In 2004, Wellcome/CR 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.


External links

* [ The Wellcome Trust/Cancer Research UK Gurdon Institute of Cancer and Developmental Biology]

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