This is most of an email I just sent to my mom:
"It's not often that you hear about research before it's even come out in a journal and think to yourself "that work is going to win the Nobel Prize"This is one of those times.
Basically what it means is that, let's say you have leukemia and need a bone marrow transplant. Rather than trying to find a suitable donor, the doctor could scrape up a bit of your skin, grow that in a lab dish, turn those back into stem cells (which can theoretically turn into anything), and turn THOSE into the cells in your bone marrow that make white blood cells etc. They can do all of those steps now.
Actually using that as a treatment is still probably a little ways off, though. They're turning cells back into stem cells by messing with their genes, and when you do that you need to make sure that you've turned the appropriate genes back to "off" before you stick them in people, or else you end up with cells replicating out of control aka cancer. But it's a huge, huge thing. Honestly, I didn't think that would be something happening *anytime* soon, maybe within my lifetime, but not less than 10 years after being able to isolate stem cells in the first place, and when we still haven't figured out tons of stuff about them.
I can't wait to read the paper when it comes out, and I'm really dorkily proud of being here at the UW during this point in its history."
One thing I am surprised about is that I hadn't heard any whiff of this--I'm have multiple one-degrees-of-separation with the Thomson group, and although I'm not involved with any specific collaboration I'm surprised I hadn't heard what they were up to. I'm impressed that they kept it under wraps so well. This is so big.