Dr. Yamanaka is a Senior Investigator and the L.K. Whittier Foundation Investigator in Stem Cell Biology at the Gladstone Institutes. At Gladstone, he conducts research at the Roddenberry Stem Cell Center. Dr. Yamanaka is also a Professor of Anatomy at the University of California, San Francisco, as well as the Director of the Center for iPS Cell Research and Application (CiRA) and a Principal Investigator at the Institute for Integrated Cell-Material Sciences, both at Kyoto University.
In 2012, Dr. Yamanaka was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for his discovery that adult somatic cells can be reprogrammed into pluripotent cells. By introducing the genes for four factors that turn genes on and off, he induced the skin cells of adult mice to become like embryonic stem cells, which he called induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells. This iPS cell technology represents an entirely new platform for fundamental studies of developmental biology. Rather than using disease models made in yeast, flies, mice or other animals, iPS cells can be taken from patients with a specific disease. As a result, they contain a complete set of the genes that resulted in that disease—representing the potential of an almost perfect disease model for studying disease development, new drugs and treatments.