September 24, 2020

The Niche

Knoepfler lab stem cell blog

Why Yamanaka deserved the Nobel Prize for induced pluripotent stem cells

I believe and have argued for years that Shinya Yamanaka, the discoverer of induced pluripotent stem cells (aka iPS cells) deserves the Nobel Prize.

I’m very glad today that he received it.

Some readers may find it a bit ironic that I believe so strongly in this way since over the years I have often been somewhat of a lonely voice in asserting that in the iPS cell field we need to accept iPS cells warts and all with particular emphasis in favor of talking about and taking on the challenges faced by iPS cell research.

In fact my lab just published a paper showing that in some important ways iPS cells are similar to cancer cells. I also just did a post (not knowing about the impending Nobel Prize) on the 7 challenges facing the iPS cell field.

Face it folks,  iPS cells are not perfect. I predict they never will be made identical to embryonic stem cells (ESCs). Their safe and effective clinical use really does face serious hurdles.

But that’s OK.

iPS cells and cellular reprogramming have still changed science and the world forever.

And Yamanaka deserves the Nobel Prize. His passion, his intelligence, and his pushing new ways to think about cell biology are truly revolutionary. The cells themselves are exciting in many ways including in a way not so much thought about right at the beginning: as disease models. They may also very well be used as cell therapies and for regenerative medicine in the future as well.

Today is a great day for science and the stem cell field. I also want to stress that I believe that Gurdon was well-deserving in addition for this Nobel.