Japan may authorise the first clinical research using iPS cells

Publié le : 19 February 2013

 On Wednesday, "an ethics committee of a Japanese hospital gave its agreement for clinical research on regenerative medicine using induced pluripotent stem cells (iPS)." This clinical research requested by the Foundation for Biomedical Research and Innovation (IBRI) from a hospital in Kobe, now requires only the validation of the Japanese Ministry of Health. This request is due to be sent to the Ministry in March. When this approval is obtained, the clinical research may start between April 2013 and March 2014.     

This clinical research is designed "to ultimately find a treatment for the ocular disease called age-related macular degeneration (AMD) […]  the leading cause of blindness in people over 55 in the industrialised countries." The researchers plan to cultivate adult retina cells, and reprogramme them before implanting them. It should be remembered that "the induced pluripotent stem cells (iPS) are created from adult cells brought back almost to their embryonic state by getting them once again to express 4 genes (normally inactive in adult cells) to recover their immaturity and the capacity to differentiate into all types of cells depending on where they are."    
This process of reprogramming adult cells was developed by the Japanese researcher Shinya Yamanaka, who in October 2012 was awarded the Nobel Prize in medicine with the Briton John B. Gurdon (Gènéthique press review from 8th to 12th of october 2012). In Japan, research work on iPS cells has become a priority and "the State has decided to give considerable funding for this as it regards it as an extremely promising field." Moreover, "the use of iPS cells raises no fundamental ethical problem, unlike the use of stem cells taken from human embryos." (Gènéthique press review from 12th to 16th of november 2012). 

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