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Few stem cell researchers have earned the international celebrity or the prestigious awards of Kyoto University’s Shinya Yamanaka, whose research team first announced in 2007 that mature human adult cells could actually be reprogrammed to become pluripotent. The news electrified the medical community. Until Yamanaka’s announcement, adult cells were presumed to be locked into their mature state: that the evolution of adult cells into their specialized function that began in the womb was unidirectional and irreversible. Yamanaka’s research indicated otherwise: that adult cells could in fact be essentially fooled into returning to the embryonic state and would begin again the process of specialization, thus potentially restoring tissue, nerves, skin, even entire organs that had been damaged by trauma, disease, or aging. Before Yamanaka’s breakthrough ...

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