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Science

Japan kicking regenerative medicine development into high gear

Businesses, universities carrying out clinical research using donated stem cells

OSAKA -- Three academic and business groups in Japan are planning to conduct clinical studies on donated stem cells in the fiscal year starting next month, aiming to commercialize such regenerative therapy.

So far, only one clinical study has looked at creating tissue from induced pluripotent stem cells. The cells could be harvested from donors and grown into skin and other body parts that would replace damaged tissue.

The method promises to be less costly. A bank of donated cells would also eliminate the time needed to grow tissues using the patient's own stem cells.

The three groups announced their research plans at a recent gathering held in Sendai, a city north of Tokyo, by the Japanese Society for Regenerative Medicine. Japan Tissue Engineering, a Fujifilm Holdings subsidiary, is joining Kyoto University to heal victims of severe burns with grown skin grafts. The partners are mulling either physician-led clinical trials or preliminary clinical research. Kyoto University Hospital will certify the results.

Tissue reconstruction is expected to start in about a week depending on the substance exuded by the transplanted skin cells. The procedure is said to cost between 1 million yen and 2 million yen ($8,700 and $17,400) -- less than a quarter what's required for conventional methods. Apart from Japan, operations in Southeast Asia and other places are also on the table.

Rohto Pharmaceutical and a team at Niigata University led by Shuji Terai aim to cure liver cirrhosis through stem cells harvested from fatty tissues during surgeries. Substances excreted by the implanted stem cells will spur the regeneration of damaged liver tissue. The group will submit applications for clinical trials to the Japanese government and elsewhere by this summer.

A team led by associate professor Takanori Iwata at Tokyo Women's Medical University looks to repair the base of teeth lost to severe periodontal disease. For the clinical trial being planned, donor stem cells mainly from wisdom teeth will be implanted into patients.

(Nikkei)

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