Yamanaka Factors and Partial Cellular Reprogramming

A blog article by Ashlie Reker, Ph.D. and Ben Wyman, M.A.

The fountain of youth has tantalized humans throughout history, but now thanks to modern science, this elusive wellspring may finally be within our grasp.

It has long been known that animals such as salamanders and octopuses are capable of regenerating parts of their body, a trait not found in mammals with the exception of the liver. To explore the mechanisms of this regeneration, Dr.’s Kazutoshi and Yamanka discovered that cells could be re-programmed using the Yamanaka Factors. These cells reverted to a state of pluripotency enabling them to take on any cell type, essentially re-setting the cell’s identity and age.

Lab mouse

This was made using a mouse model designed to enable hepatocyte-specific Yamanaka factor expression that allowed the cells to be partially reprogrammed.  

After lethal chemical liver injury, mice that had undergone partial reprogramming showed a 50% increase in survival as compared to untreated mice. 

Later, a group of researchers from France added two additional pluripotency genetic factors to the original Yamanaka Factors and were able to reset cells from aged donors back to the pluripotent state using what is now known as induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs).  This resulted in a range of successful liver regrowth! Continued pre-clinical research holds the promise to define the mechanisms of ageing and abate or even reverse the process. 

lab mouse

Continued pre-clinical research holds the promise to define the mechanisms of ageing and abate or even reverse the process.

Regenerative medicine has applicability to benefit people with stem cell therapies and additionally, regenerative medicine could potentially be used to treat severe diseases such as neurodegeneration and cardiovascular disease.  

These diseases are not only on the rise, they have thus far proven challenging for drug development.  The discovery of the Yamanaka factors is an incredibly exciting development in the field of pharmaceutical research and continued investigation will hopefully unlock the full therapeutic potential of cellular reprogramming.

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