Mayana Zatz was born in Tel Aviv on July 16, 1947. Her father, Lony Eden (1912–1984), from Dorohoi, Rumania, graduated in law in Europe. Her mother, Ella Kott Eden (b. 1914), was from Warsaw; her maternal grandfather belonged to the industrial bourgeoisie of ?ód?, Poland, where he owned a textile factory. Ella Kott graduated in languages and philosophy at Warsaw University. In 1939 the couple fled the Germans, arriving in Israel, where they stayed until 1949 and where their daughters, Dana Antonio (b. 1945) and Mayana were born. The family returned to Europe in 1949, settling in Paris, and in 1955 decided to emigrate to Brazil, where Lony Eden set up a textile factory. Mayana, who had begun her studies at the Lycée Pasteur in Paris, attended the State School of São Paulo. She graduated in biology in 1968 at the University of São Paulo, where she also completed her M.A. and Ph.D. in human genetics, specializing in neuromuscular diseases, and then did her post-doctorate at the University of California from 1975 to 1977. She is the Director of the Human Genome Research Center at the Biological Institute of the University of São Paulo and together with her group has published more than 200 peer-reviewed scientific articles, most of them related to neuromuscular disorders. Her group helped to identify six of the genes responsible for neuromuscular diseases. Mariana Zatz coordinated one of the laboratories which was involved in the Xylella Genome project at the Institute. She is also responsible for genetic counseling at the University at São Paulo, which has assisted more than twenty thousand people from families with neuromuscular diseases and has helped to diagnose and prevent the birth of children affected by serious irreversible illnesses. In 1981 she founded the Brazilian Association of Muscular Dystrophy (ABDIM), for poor children, where patients undergo physiotherapy, hydrotherapy, occupational therapy and other activities which can improve their quality of life. Mayana Zatz has received numerous awards and honors, among them the UNESCO/L’Oréal prize for Women in Sciences presented to the top Latin American scientist in 2001; the Muscular Dystrophy Association prize in 1986, for her work Growth hormone deficiency and Duchenne muscular dystrophy; the Highly Cited Brazilian Articles of the 1990s Prize, from the ISI Web of Science, awarded to the authors of the twenty-seven most-cited Brazilian works of the 1990s in March 2000; the Honor of Scientific and Technological Merit Award of the State of São Paulo, awarded in 2000 for her participation in the project of sequencing the Xylella genome; and the TWAS (Third World Academy of Sciences) Prize in Basic Medical Sciences, in 2003. She has also been involved with ethical questions related to research into the human genome and human cloning—subjects on which she has frequently lectured and has written numerous articles defending therapeutic cloning and the use of embryonic stem cells for the treatment of neurodegenerative disorders.
In 1969 Mayana married Ivo Zatz (b. 1944), engineer and chairman of a construction company. They have two children, Fabio Zatz (b. 1971) and Cintia Zatz (b. 1973).