Japan OKs world’s first iPS stemcell clinical trial

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Posted on June 27, 2013

Japan has given the green light to the world’s first clinical trial using stem cells harvested from a patient’s own body, officials said Thursday, testing a treatment that may offer hope to millions of people robbed of their sight.

A government committee approved proposals for tests aimed at treating age-related macular degeneration (AMD), a common medical condition that causes blindness in older people, using “induced Pluripotent Stem (iPS) cells”, a health ministry official said.

The trial treatment will try to create retinal cells that can be transplanted into the eyes of patients suffering from AMD, replacing the damaged part of the eye.

AMD, a condition that is incurable at present, affects mostly middle-aged and older people and can lead to blindness. It afflicts around 700,000 people in Japan alone.

Stem cell research is a pioneering field that has excited many in the scientific community with the potential they believe it offers.

A China-based research group on Wednesday said they were hoping for regulatory approval to test stemcell therapy on spinal cord injuries they believe can help immobile people walk again.

Stem cells are infant cells that can develop into any part of the body.

Until the discovery of iPS cells several years ago, the only way to obtain stem cells was to harvest them from human embryos.

This is controversial because it requires the destruction of the embryo, a process to which religious conservatives, among others, object.

Groundbreaking work done in 2006 by Shinya Yamanaka at Kyoto University, a Nobel Laureate in medicine last year, succeeded in generating stem cells from adult skin tissue.

Read more at: Phys.org



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