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Science

Japan approves clinical trials of stem cell treatment for Parkinson's disease

Kyoto University to conduct first-ever iPS-based test for incurable disease

Kyoto University has stockpiled induced pluripotent stem cells or iPS and provided them to universities and research institutions in Japan.

KYOTO (Kyodo) --  A Kyoto University research team said Monday it will begin this week a clinical test using induced pluripotent stem cells to treat Parkinson's disease, in what will be the world's first application of iPS to the progressive neurological disorder.

The team led by Jun Takahashi, a professor at the university's Center for iPS Cell Research and Application, has received government approval and is soliciting several patients to participate in the trial to be conducted at Kyoto University Hospital, according to sources close to the matter.

The team is scheduled to hold a press conference to explain the details of the clinical test later in the day.

Parkinson's disease reduces dopamine-producing neurons in the brain and results in tremors in the hands and feet, and stiffness in the body. While there are treatments to relieve the symptoms, there is currently no cure for the disease.

In the clinical test that will start on Wednesday, nerve cells derived from other people and stored at the university will be transplanted into the brains of patients to supplement damaged nerve cells.

The team has already tested the process on monkeys in a preclinical study, in which the movement of the affected animals improved without seeing any tumors that could develop into cancer in the brain over a two-year observation period.

The clinical trial will be led by doctors who will determine the safety and effectiveness of the test.

Among other clinical tests of iPS cells, the government-backed Riken institute conducted the world's first transplant of retinal cells grown from iPS cells to a patient suffering from a serious disease in 2014.

Osaka University is also planning a clinical test for treating heart failure by using a heart muscle cell sheet created from iPS cells.

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