Shinya Yamanaka, a professor at Kyoto University, attends a press conference in Tokyo, January 9, 2008. (Photo by Kurita KAKU/Gamma-Rapho)
Kyoto University Professor Shinya Yamanaka speaks during the press preview of the Center for iPS Cell Research and Application (CiRA) on May 8, 2010, in Kyoto, Japan. (Photo by The Asahi Shimbun)
Kyoto University Professor Shinya Yamanaka speaks during a press conference at Kyoto University on October 8, 2012, in Kyoto, Japan. (Photo by The Asahi Shimbun)
Kyoto University Professor and Nobel Prize laureate in Medicine Shinya Yamanaka speaks during the exclusive interview with the Asahi Shimbun on October 11, 2012, in Kyoto, Japan. (Photo by The Asahi Shimbun)
December 10, 2012: Sweden’s King Carl XVI Gustaf presents Professor Shinya Yamanaka with the Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine during the award ceremony at the Stockholm Concert Hall. (Jonas Ekstromer/Corbis)
Kyoto University professor and 2012 Nobel Prize in Medicine laureate Shinya Yamanaka speaks during the Asahi Shimbun interview on December 22, 2014, in Kyoto, Japan. (Photo by The Asahi Shimbun)
Japanese Nobel Prize winner Shinya Yamanaka speaks in an interview with Kyodo News in Kyoto, on June 7, 2016. (Photo by Kyodo News Stills)
Nobel Prize laureate Shinya Yamanaka addresses during the ceremony marking Emperor Akihito's 30-year anniversary in throne at the National Theatre on April 10, 2019, in Tokyo, Japan. (Photo by The Asahi Shimbun)
In the 1970s, young Shinya Yamanaka attended Tennoji Junior High and High School in Osaka, Japan. In 1981, he was accepted to Kobe University’s School of Medicine, where he went on to study sports medicine, specializing in orthopedic surgery, and graduating in 1987.
(Research into the field of stem cell biology has develope...)
Research into the field of stem cell biology has developed exponentially over recent years and is beginning to offer significant promise for unravelling the molecular basis of a multitude of disease states. Importantly, in addition to offering the opportunity to delve deeply into the mechanisms that drive disease aetiology the research is realistically opening the doors for development of targeted and personalized therapeutic applications that many considered, until recently, to be nothing more than a far fetched dream. This volume provides a timely glimpse into the methods that have been developed to instigate, and the mechanisms that have been identified to drive, the process of nuclear reprogramming, chronicling how the field has developed over the last 50-60 years.
Yamanaka attended Tennōji High School attached to Osaka Kyoiku University.
He received a Doctor of Medicine from Kōbe University in 1987 and a Doctor of Philosophy in pharmacology from the Ōsaka City University Graduate School in 1993.
In 1993 Yamanaka joined the Gladstone Institute of Cardiovascular Disease, San Francisco, where he began investigating the c-Myc gene in different strains of knockout mice (mice in which a specific gene has been rendered nonfunctional in order to investigate the gene's function). In 1996 Yamanaka returned to Ōsaka City University, where he remained until 1999 when he took a position at the Nara Institute of Science and Technology. During this period his research became increasingly focused on stem cells. In 2004 he moved to the Institute for Frontier Medical Sciences at Kyōto University, where he began his landmark studies on finding ways to induce pluripotency in cells. Yamanaka again sought research opportunities in the United States and subsequently was awarded funding that allowed him to split his time between Kyōto and the Gladstone Institute of Cardiovascular Disease. Yamanaka became a senior investigator at the Gladstone Institute in 2007.
In 2006 Yamanaka announced that he had succeeded in generating iPS cells. The cells had the properties of embryonic stem cells but were produced by inserting four specific genes into the nuclei of mouse adult fibroblasts (connective-tissue cells). The following year Yamanaka reported that he had derived iPS cells from human adult fibroblasts - the first successful attempt at generating human versions of these cells. This discovery marked a turning point in stem-cell research because it offered a way of obtaining human stem cells without the controversial use of human embryos. Yamanaka's technique to convert adult cells into iPS cells up to that time had employed a retrovirus that contained the c-Myc gene. This gene was believed to play a fundamental role in reprogramming the nuclei of adult cells. However, Yamanaka recognized that the activation of c-Myc during the process of creating iPS cells led to the formation of tumors when the stem cells were later transplanted into mice. He subsequently created iPS cells without c-Myc in order to render the cells noncancerous and thereby overcome a major concern in the therapeutic safety of iPS cells. In 2008 Yamanaka reported another breakthrough - the generation of iPS cells from mouse liver and stomach cells.
Yamanaka and British developmental biologist John B. Gurdon shared the 2012 Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine for the discovery that mature cells could be reprogrammed.
Yamanaka received multiple awards for his contributions to stem-cell research, including the Robert Koch Prize (2008), the Shaw Prize in Life Science and Medicine (2008), the Gairdner Foundation International Award (2009), the Albert Lasker Basic Medical Research Award (2009), and the Millennium Technology Prize (2012).
Shinya Yamanaka is an atheist.
Shinya Yamanaka isn't involved in politics.
Yamanaka's research focuses on ways to generate cells resembling embryonic stem cells by reprogramming somatic cells. He seeks to understand the molecular mechanisms that underlie pluripotency and the rapid proliferation of embryonic stem cells - they can become any type of cell in the body - and to identify the factors that induce reprogramming.
Pluripotent stem cells can be generated from adult mouse-tail tip fibroblasts and adult human fibroblasts by the retrovirus-mediated transfection of four transcription factors, Oct3/4, Sox2, c-Myc, and Klf4. Yamanaka has designated these cells as induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells. iPS cells are indistinguishable from embryonic stem cells in morphology, proliferation, gene expression, and teratoma formation. When transplanted into blastocysts, mouse iPS cells derived from mouse fibroblasts can give rise to adult chimera mice, which are competent for germline transmission. These results are proof-of-principle that pluripotent stem cells can be generated from somatic cells by the combination of a small number of factors.
Yamanaka demonstrated that not a single "master" transcription factor, but rather a combination of factors, are important for reprogramming of cell fate from one somatic lineage back to a pluripotent state. However, the molecular mechanism of its process remains unclear. Improving our understanding of this mechanism is essential to determine the best induction protocols for each downstream application of iPS cell technology, such as disease modeling, drug screening, and cell therapy.
National Academy of Sciences
International Society for Stem Cell Research
Japanese Pharmacological Society
Japanese Society for Regenerative Medicine
Molecular Biology Society of Japan
Japanese Orthopaedic Association
Japanese Society of Inflammation and Regeneration
Pontifical Academy of Sciences
Shinya Yamanaka is a marathon runner. During his lunch breaks on weekdays, he runs for 30 minutes along the Kamo River and near Nanzen-ji Temple, which are located near the research institute. On weekends, he runs around Osaka Castle near his house and around the Tokyo Imperial Palace when he is in Tokyo for work. Running helps Yamanaka refresh his tired brain, just like the initialization process involved in iPS cell generation.
Shinya Yamanaka is married to Chika Yamanaka. She runs a clinic in Osaka. The couple had two daughters, Mika and Miki.