Newspaper article The Daily Yomiuri (Toyko, Japan)

EDITORIAL: Clinical Trial Using iPS Cells Litmus Test for Promoting Regenerative Medicine

Newspaper article The Daily Yomiuri (Toyko, Japan)

EDITORIAL: Clinical Trial Using iPS Cells Litmus Test for Promoting Regenerative Medicine

Article excerpt

The latest clinical trial is the first step of epoch-making research that could evolve into regenerative medicine. After careful safety assessment, putting the latest result into practical use should be promoted.

A team led by RIKEN ophthalmologist Masayo Takahashi transplanted retina cells produced from induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells into the eyes of a woman suffering from age-related macular degeneration. The patient is said to be doing well.

It was the world's first clinical trial of transplanting iPS cells, which can develop into the cells of various types of tissues, into a human body.

This clinical trial can be considered a litmus test for regenerative medicine using iPS cells, which could eventually be used widely.

About 700,000 people are estimated to be suffering from the age-related macular degeneration, the symptoms of which include distorted vision.

The current treatment is symptomatic therapy to prevent the patient's condition from further deteriorating. With the transplant of retina cells, the patient could make a full recovery. Expectations among patients over the effectiveness of such a transplant are believed to be running high.

Over the past seven years, since Prof. Shinya Yamanaka of Kyoto University successfully produced human iPS cells, the risk of the iPS cells becoming cancerous -- a key issue to be tackled -- has almost been resolved, while the efficiency of production has been enhanced.

The latest surgical procedure carries important implications as a clinical study to confirm the safety of medical technology using iPS cells. Is there an absolute guarantee the iPS cells will not turn cancerous? Are there any unknown risks? These issues will be examined over the next four years.

In an effort to have research results using iPS cells linked to regenerative medicine, the Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Ministry plans to spend 110 billion yen from fiscal 2012 to 2022. …

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