Professor Shinya Yamanaka is a world renowned stem cell researcher. Born in Osaka, Japan, in 1962, Yamanaka received his M.D. at Kobe University School of Medicine (1987) and Ph.D. at Osaka University Graduate School Division of Medicine (1993). He completed a residency in orthopedic surgery at the National Osaka Hospital (1987-1989) and a postdoctoral fellowship at the Gladstone Institute of Cardiovascular Disease in San Francisco, U.S.A. (1993-1996). He is currently Director of the Center for Induced Pluripotent Stem Cell Research and Application (CiRA) at Kyoto University in Japan, Professor at the Institute for Integrated Cell-Material Sciences, Kyoto University, and Senior Scientist in stem cell biology at the Gladstone Institute, Professor of Anatomy at the University of California in San Francisco, U.S.A.
Professor Yamanaka’s distinguished career in stem cell research has been crowned by his discovery reported in 2006 that the addition of only four genes could revert adult mouse skin cells back to embryonic-like stem cells. These induced pluripotent1 stem cells (iPS), as they are now known, could turn into all of the different cell types of the body and appeared to have the similar properties as embryonic stem cells without the need for destroying an embryo, thus circumventing many ethical concerns regarding stem cell research. The following year, Professors Yamanaka and James Thomson independently reported that they succeeded in reprogramming human adult skin cells into iPS cells. Yamanaka’s landmark discoveries together with those of Thomson’s have led to a dramatic surge in research on stem cell biology. Professor Yamanaka and his group are currently actively engaged in iPS cell research towards regenerative medicine and as a research tool for drug discovery.
Professor Yamanaka’s outstanding contributions to stem cell research have been recognized by numerous awards including: Meyenburg Cancer Research award (2007), Yamazaki-Teiichi Prize in Biological Science and Technology (2008); Robert Koch Prize (2008); Shaw Prize in Life Science and Medicine (2008); Sankyo Takamine Memorial Award (2008); Lewis S. Rosenstiel Award for Distinguished Work in Basic Medical Research (2009); Gairdner Foundation International Award (2009); Albert Lasker Award for Basic Medical Research (2009); March of Dimes Prize in Developmental Biology (2010); Kyoto Prize in Biotechnology and medical technology (2010) and the Balzan Prize (2010). In 2007, Professor Yamanaka was recognized by the TIME magazine as a “Person Who Mattered” and in 2008, he was also listed by the TIME as one of the 100 most influential people in the world.
Professor Yamanaka, has been awarded the prize for his astounding discovery, that adult human skin cells could be induced to become pluripotent stem cells that resemble embryonic stem cells. This important breakthrough has revitalized interest in stem cell biology, with many laboratories re-investigating the possible use of these cells in the modeling and treatment of human diseases.