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Japanese wins Nobel Prize in Medicine

Kyoto University Prof. Shinya Yamanaka

Publication Date : 09-10-2012


The scientist, who developed iPS cells, is the 19th Japanese laureate honoured


Shinya Yamanaka, who developed induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells, has won the 2012 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, which he shared with a British scientist, the Swedish Karolinska Institute announced Monday.

Yamanaka, 50, won the prize for developing and establishing reprogramming technology that can revert somatic cells to their undifferentiated, or embryonic, state.

The British scientist, Sir John Gurdon, 79, is known for successfully cloning frogs in 1962.

Yamanaka, the 19th Japanese Nobel laureate, will receive half of the 8 million Swedish kronor (US$1.20 million) prize money during a ceremony in Stockholm on December 10.

Using a method of introducing certain types of genes into mouse skin cells, Yamanaka in 2006 developed iPS cells that rejuvenated to a state close to that of fertilized ova from mature adult cells. He successfully generated human iPS cells in 2007.

His groundbreaking work opens up possibilities in a wide range of fields, such as the development of regenerative medicine and treatments for intractable diseases.

iPS cells are highly versatile, and able to replenish every type of body cell except for those in the placenta.

Their capacity to multiply almost indefinitely has led to expectations they could have a number of practical applications.

It is hoped they will assist the development of regenerative medicine to replace tissue damaged through injury, such as damage to the spinal cord, or through illness, such as diabetes or Parkinson's disease.

They might also help clarify mechanisms that bring about the onset of intractable diseases and assist in the development of treatments for such illnesses.

Yamanaka is the second Japanese recipient of the physiology or medicine prize. The first was Susumu Tonegawa, a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, in 1987.

Yamanaka was born in Osaka Prefecture in September 1962.

After graduating from Kobe University School of Medicine, Yamanaka became an assistant at Osaka City University Medical School, then a professor at Nara Institute of Science and Technology.


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