Human beings – both men and women – in all eras have dreamt of staying strong and healthy and looking young and beautiful in spite of the passing of time, and those with the means have often spent enormous sums trying to achieve this dream.
After thousands of years, science made a leap forward, and the two researchers involved in this work won the Nobel Prize in 2012 for Physiology and Medicine.
That is now history: in 1962 the Briton John B. Gurdon, who is now 79 years old, discovered that a specialized adult cell “can lose its identity” and be reprogrammed to become a completely different type of cell.
The Japanese Shinya Yamanaka, born in the year of Gurdon’s groundbreaking discovery, more than 40 years later developed a technique that allowed adult, already differentiated cells to be reprogrammed.
When an egg cell is fertilized and the first cells begin to divide, these immature cells are all equal, with a low, elementary frequency. Such cells are called “pluripotent” because in their “primitive” state they have the potential to differentiate and become blood, skin, bone, eye, liver cells etc.
Gurdon’s intuition was brilliant: all that was needed was to return, in some way, to the first moments of life and start over again, in order to, for example, restore the functionality of an organ damaged by disease, injury or other.
Therefore, for years, researchers tried to obtain “young” “embryonic” tissue, an excellent example of which is found in embryos and the umbilical cord – with obvious problems of ethics.
Today instead, thanks to the technique developed by Yamanaka, we know that adult cells can be reprogrammed to become embryonic cells, thereby opening the way to a series of infinite uses; uses that are truly numerous and all interesting – for example, in medicine, in the field of regenerative medicine – in light of the fact that Yamanaka’s discovery will allow us to turn a patient’s cells into stem cells and then into a type of tissue used to treat and cure a great many illnesses.
The implications in aesthetic medicine and cosmetic are also interesting. A new frontier is, in fact, the research into plant stem cells, which are also provided with exceptional vitality and flexibility.
A recently awarded Nobel Prize and we are already at the threshold of a new era with regard not only to health, but also beauty and the dream of “eternal beauty”.