Meet the Scientist

Douglas Yamanishi has a BS in biochemistry from UC Davis and a PhD in molecular biology from University of Arizona.  He has worked at start-up/small (AVIVA Biosciences, Celula and Certified Compliance Solutions), mid (Sakura Finetek) and large (Roche) companies including fifteen years of industrial experience directing projects from product development to manufacturing and clinical studies.  He has also been an invited speaker at national and international meetings (Europe and Asia).  His participation in fund raising and marketing resulted in multi-million dollar investments and licensing agreements.  He's assisted several companies (national and international) with FDA clearance for their medical device and has 14 peer-reviewed publications and 5 patents (issued or pending).
 
1. Have you done any research with stem cells, and if so, please explain.
I have over 10 years of experience enriching and identifying stem cells. 
 
2. What is your job description?
I was hired to direct a group with the primary objective to capture and identify stem cells.  The second objective was to assist with fund raising and marketing.
 
3. What is the economic impact of stem cells?
The economic impact varies from nothing to billions.  The issue is whether the technology can be transferred to humans with minimal side effects.  Researchers are waiting on the data from FDA cleared clinical studies to see how beneficial these therapies are and what potential side effects could occur.
 
4. Are there any ethical, legal, or social issues with the use or studies of stem cells?
There are many issues.  The main issue is where the stem cells came from and could they be used in standard therapeutics.   
 
5. What do scientists hope to achieve from studying stem cells?
Initially, they could be used as a therapy to help repair tissue damage (nerve damage, cardiac damage, etc).  Another potential use is growing cells in a 3D structure to replace organs.  A second direction could be in diagnostics.  The isolation and characterization of cancer stem cells could result in novel cancer therapeutics.    
 
6. How do stem cells help with other diseases?
This comes down to what stem cells ultimately can do.  For example, a patient with brain damage (e.g. Parkinson) could be treated with stem cells and replace damaged neurons.  This may allow the patient to recover via normal brain function. A patient with spinal damage could walk again with spinal cord repair/replacement.  A damage organ (e.g. heart) could be repaired/replaced and allow the person to continue living.

7.Why should someone save stem cells? Is it a good idea?
It is a good idea with potential to help.  The potential to assist someone is based on if the science can become standard clinical care.  The stem cells could be used as a preventative measure where they could be used to treat an unforeseen illness or medical situation.  Stem cell research is currently being evaluated for multiple disease conditions and damaged tissue repair.   
 
8.How can you save the stem cells for future use?
There are companies that can preserve, enrich and grow embryonic and fetal stem cells. However, there are social/ethical issues with these types of stem cells. Science is currently working on ways to do the same with adult stem cells.   
 
9.Is it a good idea to freeze the placenta of your new born baby in order to use the stem cells later in life if needed?
If the parents are willing to use or donate the stem cells in the placenta, then it is a good idea. Adult stem cells age like all cells in the body, so the earlier the better. 
 
10.What is so special about the embryonic stem cells that people want to save them? Why can't scientists use adult stem cells instead?
These stem cells are the earliest types of progenitor stem cells with the most potential to grow and differentiate with minimal modification/manipulation.  With adult stem cells, they have aged and may have genetic damage or reduced productivity.

11.Can cancer develop from stem cell transplants?
This is one of the primary medical issues with stem cell transplants.  The techniques used to make stem cells can also result in the formation of cancer stem cells. This is an issue that the medical community is working on to ensure that transplanted stem cells are “normal” rather than cancer stem cells. Animal models were used to initially follow the transplanted stem cells and subsequent clinical studies follow the patients to monitor the transplanted cells and patient health. Stem cells are defined as cells that have the ability to perpetuate themselves through regulated self-renewal and to generate mature cells of a particular tissue through terminal differentiation.  However, if genetic changes occur during their growth and self-renewal steps, these stem cells can become cancer stem cells.  Cancer occurs when stem cells become uncontrolled and their growth is unregulated.  If the starting cells contain genetic damage or during the process of creating stem cells develop genetic damage, it is possible for “normal” stem cells to become cancer stem cells.  

Douglas T. Yamanishi, Ph.D.
Immunohistochemistry Reagents
Sakura Finetek USA

              Douglas T. Yamanishi, Ph.D.
              Immunohistochemistry Reagents
              Sakura Finetek USA


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