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Scientific breakthroughs

18 June 2010

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Professor Sir Martin Evans’ identification of embryonic stem cells has been listed in a poll of the most important scientific discoveries made at UK universities.

His discovery was included in a list of the top ten innovations, theories and technologies developed over the past 60 years. Other key discoveries on the list include DNA, genetic fingerprinting and the birth of the first working computer.

Professor Sir Martin EvansProfessor Sir Martin Evans

Sir Martin, President of Cardiff University, was the first scientist to identify embryonic stem cells, which can be adapted for a wide variety of medical purposes. His work is now being applied in virtually all areas of biomedicine – from basic research to the development of new therapies.

Describing his discovery, Sir Martin said: "I grew these control cells out and when I looked down the microscope, I saw stem cells growing. That was the Eureka moment – I knew immediately what I’d got."

Sir Martin was awarded the Nobel Prize for Medicine in 2007 for his work in the field of embryonic stem cells and DNA recombination for mammals.

The poll was carried out by Universities UK, to mark Universities Week (14-20 June 2010), a special event aiming to increase public awareness of the wide and varied contributions made by universities. More than 400 academics were asked to choose from a list of innovative discoveries.

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