The Kobe Institute (Japan) is presenting the preliminary results of the one and only clinical trial in the world to use IPS cells.
Ophthalmologist, Masayo Takahashi, explains that these are skin cells taken from patients suffering from age-related macular degeneration (ARMD), and transformed into retinal cells. “The main advantage of iPS compared to embryo stem cells is that they are taken from the patients themselves. Therefore, there is no need for anti-rejection treatments following implantation”. She claims that there is a marked improvement in patients’ eyesight one year after surgery. Six patients are scheduled for transplant over a two-year period.
Professor Jun Takahashi’s research project also looks promising. He has succeeded in improving the motor function of monkeys with Parkinson’s disease “using dopaminergic neurones obtained from IPS”. He hopes to arrive at the clinical trial stage (human testing) within two years.
Le Monde explained the Japanese interest in IPS cells: “They have the benefit of skirting the ethical or legal issues associated with embryo stem cells, the clinical use of which is prohibited in Japan”.
Japan, henceforth a pioneer in IPs, has invested in buildings and state-of-the-art equipment to secure its advantage, “as evidenced in the work published on 26 November in Stem Cell Reports on the basis of which, for the first time, Shinya Yamanaka et al. from the CiRA have succeeded in editing the genome of an iPS cell to correct the genetic anomaly responsible for Duchenne muscular dystrophy”. As far as Annelise Bennaceur-Griscelli, stem cell specialist at the French National Health and Medical Research Institute (Inserm) is concerned, “this approach offers enormous potential”.
Furthermore, Japan aims to create an IPS cell bank “capable of producing at lower cost tissue that is compatible with most of the Japanese population”. Hence patients could be both “donors and recipients”. There are also plans to create a wider scale IPS cell bank to include Japan, France, the United States and the United Kingdom.
Although France has one of the largest IPS cell banks in the world, as confirmed by Georges Dagher at Inserm, it has yet to embark on therapeutic tests involving IPS. In fact, France prefers embryo stem cells (hESCs) having launched the first international clinical trial in hESC this year for the treatment of myocardial infarction.
Le Monde (Viviane Thivent) 01/12/2014