The acclaimed Japanese embryonic stem cell scientist joined the Gladstone Institute of Cardiovascular Disease this summer, where he will serve as a senior investigator in stem cell biology and a professor of anatomy at UC San Francisco. While still at Kyoto University in August 2006, Yamanaka was the first scientist to report, in the journal Cell, on a new method for “reprogramming” skin cells from mice into cells that mimic embryonic stem cells.
Your work deals with making embryonic-stem-cell-like cells out of adult cells. What are the recent advances in the field? In our original report, which we published last year … we used genetically modified mice … but this time, two groups reported they can create IPS cells from normal mice, without any genetic modification.
What human illnesses can be helped with this research? There are many diseases, including Type 1 diabetes and Parkinson’s disease, spinal cord injury, heart failure and burns, skin burns and osteoporosis.
What are the greatest challenges in embryonic stem cell research today? Of course, I think one of the biggest challenges is the ethical issues. Here in the United States, because of President Bush, we cannot use federal money to create new human embryonic stem cells. In Japan, you can use federal money to create new cells, so it seems like it would be easier. But in reality, Japan has a very strict regulation on not only the derivation, but on the usage of the existing human embryonic stem cells.
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