I know I’m a week or so late, but congratulations are in order for Martin Evans, Oliver Smithies and Mario Capecchi for winning the 2007 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine “for their discoveries of principles for introducing specific gene modifications in mice by the use of embryonic stem cells”.

One could easily have seen the prize being awarded just for the development of the use of embryonic stem cells (Matthew Kaufman? Gail Martin?), as this has led to so many new possibilities, both in research and in medicine. It’s interesting that they chose instead to combine that honor with the researchers who made the great intellectual leap of putting together those technologies with the homologous recombination methods already developed mostly in yeast. It’s hard to overstate how much this has changed the way research is done in the mouse model system. Previous methods of generating transgenic mice, usually by microinjection, were flawed at best, resulting in random integration as they did. Making a line of transgenic mice was a much more hit-or-miss prospect, and since it was so time-consuming and expensive, often very frustrating. The types of experiments you could do, overexpression, ectopic expression, hunting for regulatory regions, was greatly limited. Being able to specifically tailor your mutants has been a quantum leap forward. Loss-of-function mutations ushered in a new era in mouse research.

The descendants of these Nobel Prize-winning methods for isolating, growing and manipulating embryonic stem cells in mouse, and for generating transgenic animals using embryonic stem cells can be found here and here.