Scientist's stem cell quest triggered by a startling moment

Dr. Shinya Yamanaka, the Japanese scientist who led one of the two teams that recently announced they had turned human skin cells into the equivalent of embryonic stem cells, was driven by a passion to stop the destruction of embryos in medical research. His mission started about eight years ago, he told the New York Times, when he looked at an embryo through a microscope. From that inspirational trigger, Yamanaka was the first to conclude that adult cells could be reprogrammed into stem cells that acted like ESCs by adding master regulator genes. While the work has been lauded by many in research who would like to find a way around the red-hot controversy surrounding ESCs, in Japan Yamanaka's work has been heralded for overcoming the country's reputation for being chronically bad at innovative scientific work.

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