Japan health ministry subpanel OKs first iPS cell clinical trial

A subcommittee of the health ministry’s Health Sciences Council approved plans Friday for what would be the world’s first clinical trial using induced pluripotent stem cells.

The health minister is expected shortly to give the final approval for the iPS cell clinical trial on eye disease patients planned by a team from the state-affiliated research institute Riken’s Center for Developmental Biology in Kobe.

The Riken project has already been approved by a screening panel under the subcommittee, as well as by the ethics board of the research institute.

Friday’s meeting of the subcommittee was open to the public. It was the first open screening session for the clinical research application.


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Japanese Scientists Reproduce Muscular Dystrophy Condition with iPS Cells

A Japanese research team said Wednesday it has reproduced the pathological condition of muscular dystrophy by using induced pluripotent stem, or iPS, cells.    

The team, which includes Hidetoshi Sakurai of Kyoto Universitys Center for iPS Cell Research and Application, reproduced ailing skeletal muscle cells seen in sufferers of Miyoshi myopathy, a type of muscular dystrophy, from iPS cells, the team said.   

It is the first such achievement in the world and was reported in an article in U.S. journal PLOS One.   

One of the symptoms of Miyoshi myopathy is destruction of cell membranes of the skeletal muscle cells. But the team succeeded in restoring membrane repair functions by activating special proteins usually lacking in those with the disease.

Read the rest of the story: Japan Team Reproduces Muscular Dystrophy Condition with iPS Cells.

Japan Scientists Create New Weapon to Fight Cancer

Researchers at the RIKEN Research Centre for Allergy and Immunology revealed they have succeeded for the first time in creating cancer-specific, immune system cells called killer T lymphocytes, the Daily Mail said.

To create these, the team first had to reprogramme T lymphocytes specialized in killing a certain type of cancer, into another type of cell called induced pluripotent stem cells (iPS cells). These iPS cells then generated fully active, cancer-specific T lymphocytes. These lymphocytes regenerated from iPS cells could potentially serve as cancer therapy in the future, researchers believe.

Previous research has shown that killer T lymphocytes produced in the lab using conventional methods are inefficient in killing cancer cells mainly because they have a very short life-span, which limits their use as treatment for cancer.

Read the rest of the story: Japan offers hope of treating cancer.

Scientists make sperm and ova from human iPS cells

Scientists at Keio University in Tokyo say they have produced cells that will become sperm and ova from ones developed from human skin. They say the achievement is the first of its kind in Japan.

The group of researchers led by Professor Hideyuki Okano found a way to make induced pluripotent stem cells, or iPS cells, visible when they develop into the primordial germ cells that will become sperm or ova.

They made the primordial germ cells glow green when a particular gene appears. They cultivated the cells by adding a special chemical compound.

The scientists say they have confirmed that the primordial germ cells were developed in 5 days.

A research team at Kyoto University says it has developed primordial germ cells from iPS cells from mice and produced offspring through in vitro fertilization.

Keio University Professor Okano says he hopes his team’s research can be used to develop drugs for treating infertility.

In Japan, fertilization of artificially-developed human sperm and ova is prohibited under science ministry guidelines.