Stem Cell Pioneer Shinya Yamanaka Shares 2012 Nobel Prize In Medicine

Japanese stem cell scientist Shinya Yamanaka and John B. Gurdon of the U.K. have won the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine 2012.

AsianScientist (Oct. 8, 2012) – Japanese stem cell scientist Shinya Yamanaka and John B. Gurdon of the U.K. have jointly won the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine 2012.

The Nobel Assembly at Karolinska Institutet today announced the two scientists had won the annual prize for the discovery that mature cells can be reprogrammed to become pluripotent.

John B. Gurdon discovered in 1962 that the specialization of cells is reversible. In a classic experiment, he replaced the immature cell nucleus in an egg cell of a frog with the nucleus from a mature intestinal cell. This modified egg cell developed into a normal tadpole, with all the DNA information needed to develop all cells in the frog.

More than 40 years later, Shinya Yamanaka discovered in 2006 how intact mature cells in mice could be reprogrammed to become immature stem cells.

When several genes were identified that kept stem cells immature, Yamanaka and his co-workers tested whether any of them could reprogram mature cells to become induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells. He finally succeeded by introducing four genes (Oct3/4, Sox2, Klf4, c-Myc) into mice dermal fibroblast cells.

His 2006 publication in the journal Cell was hailed a breakthrough, and recent research has confirmed that iPS cells can give rise to all the different cell types of the body. iPS cells can also be prepared from human cells, representing an invaluable tool for understanding disease mechanisms and new opportunities to develop medical therapies.

In 2009, Yamanaka shared the Albert Lasker Basic Medical Research Award, often seen as a precursor to winning the Nobel Prize. He then went on to win the 2010 Kyoto Prize, Japan’s highest private award for global achievement.

Yamanaka was born in Osaka, Japan in 1962. He obtained his M.D. degree in 1987 at Kobe University and trained as an orthopedic surgeon before switching to basic research.

He received his Ph.D. degree at Osaka University in 1993, after which he worked at the Gladstone Institute in San Francisco and Nara Institute of Science and Technology in Japan. Yamanaka is currently Professor at Kyoto University and also affiliated with the Gladstone Institute in the United States.


Source: Nobel Foundation.
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