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Medical Award Honors Two Scientists Who Found Stem Cells

I'm Faith Lapidus with the VOA Special English Health Report.

Two scientists in Canada have won a major award for their discovery of stem cells. They received the Albert Lasker Award for Basic Medical Research at ceremonies in New York City.

Stem cells are able to develop into other kinds of cells or tissue. Scientists are examining adult and embryonic stem cells in hopes of treating different diseases.

The winners are Ernest McCulloch and James Till of the Ontario Cancer Institute and the University of Toronto. They first identified a stem cell in the blood-forming system. They showed that a single kind of bone marrow stem cell could create the three main kinds of blood cells. Their work also explained the effects of treatments for leukemia and other blood cancers.

The two professors started as scientists at the Ontario Cancer Institute nearly fifty years ago. They will share fifty thousand dollars in prize money with their award.

Two British scientists won the Lasker Award for Clinical Medical Research. It honors Sir Edwin Southern of Oxford University and Sir Alec Jeffreys of the University of Leicester for their work in genetics.

Professor Southern invented a process that lets scientists identify a single gene in a genetic map, or genome. Professor Jeffreys used this process to develop a way to identify genetic differences between individuals. This is known as genetic fingerprinting. The two scientists also will share fifty thousand dollars.

The winner this year of the Lasker Public Service Award is Nancy Brinker. She is not a scientist. She started the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation. She did it to keep a promise to her sister, Susan Komen, who died of breast cancer.

Since nineteen eighty-two, the group has raised seven hundred fifty million dollars for research and other efforts to end breast cancer. Nancy Brinker has had the disease also.

The Lasker Public Service Award comes without money.

This is the sixtieth year of the Lasker Awards. They are known as America’s Nobel Prizes. In fact, seventy winners have later received a Nobel.

The Laskers were a wealthy husband and wife. Albert died in nineteen fifty-three; Mary died in nineteen ninety-four. She led efforts for many years to expand support for medical science.

This VOA Special English Health Report was written by George Grow. Internet users can find our reports at I'm Faith Lapidus.