Stem Cells Win a Nobel

Good morning from a plane.  The Nobel Prize for medicine often goes to researchers most of us have never heard of, for work that seems only passingly related to anything in our lives. Every now and than, though, it makes a statement.

This morning the prize went to three scientists, two of them American and one British, "for their discoveries of principles for introducing specific gene modifications in mice by the use of embryonic stem cells."

They did not use human embryonic stem cells, but the buzzword (or phrase) is there, and I'll be curious to see if there is any pushback.

One of the winners, Mario Capecchi of the University of Utah, has a particularly striking story to tell. Italian-born and now 70, he was four when the Gestapo arrested his mother and took her to Dachau. He lived in the streets, begging for or stealing food, for more than four years, until World War II ended and his mother was released. They moved to America. He was nine. He couldn't read. He couldn't speak English.

Now he has won a Nobel, for work on stem cells.

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