News ID: 239027
Published: 0956 GMT February 18, 2019

Japan OKs test using iPS cells to treat spinal cord injuries

Japan OKs test using iPS cells to treat spinal cord injuries

Japan's health ministry approved Monday the world's first clinical test in which artificially derived stem cells will be used to treat patients with spinal cord injuries.

A team of researchers from Keio University, which filed a request for the test with the ministry, will inject neural cells produced from so-called induced pluripotent stem cells (iPS) into four people who sustained injuries while playing sports or in traffic accidents, wrote.

It is the fifth time that the government has authorized clinical studies using iPS cells. The patients, aged 18 or older and to undergo the test treatment administered by a team led by Hideyuki Okano, a professor of the School of Medicine, will have suffered lost mobility and sensation.

The cells will be injected within two to four weeks of the patients' accident —   a period in which the treatment is believed to be effective.

The cells to be transplanted will be created from iPS cells in storage at Kyoto University and will be kept frozen.

Kyoto University's Shinya Yamanaka won the Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine in 2012 for developing iPS cells, which can grow into any type of body tissue and are seen as a promising tool for regenerative medicine and drug development.

The main purpose of Keio's study is to confirm the safety of the neural cells to be created. The team will limit the number of cells they will transplant to two million but plan to increase that to up to 10 million in the future.

Every year, some 5,000 people sustain spinal cord damage in Japan, and the number of people living with some sort of spinal cord-related injury is estimated to total over 100,000.

On Monday, a panel at the ministry also reviewed another plan for a clinical test in which corneas produced from iPS cells will be transplanted to treat eye diseases. The trial was proposed by an Osaka University research team.

The panel did not yet come to a decision on the cornea trial and left the outcome to future discussions.

Among other clinical tests with iPS cells, the government-backed Riken institute conducted the world's first transplant of retina cells grown from iPS cells to an individual with an eye disease in 2014.

Kyoto University also began a clinical test using iPS cells to treat Parkinson's disease last year.

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