OSAKA -- Japan's Kyoto University has begun sharing its reserve of cells reprogrammed to an embryonic state in an effort to bring regenerative medicine closer to reality.
The university has provided induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells to Keio University, Osaka University, the government-affiliated Riken institute and other institutions. The cells in the stockpile have been deemed to have a low risk of being rejected when transplanted into patients' bodies.
A Kyoto University team will begin clinical research on using iPS cells to treat Parkinson's disease as early as 2016. Meanwhile, Riken is moving ahead with a second clinical trial of an iPS cell-based treatment for a degenerative eye disease.
Shinya Yamanaka, who won the 2012 Nobel Prize in medicine for his discoveries in cell reprogramming, announced the cell-sharing initiative this week at a bioscience conference in Suita, a suburb of Osaka. He serves as director of the university's Center for iPS Cell Research and Application.
Yamanaka told a news conference Friday that he was eager to exchange information on collecting iPS cells with researchers in other countries. Stockpiling iPS cells is a crucial step in advancing their use in medicine. Efforts at building up such inventories are underway around the world. Researchers, regulators and others from 10-odd countries formed an alliance last year with the aim of standardizing quality checks and other aspects of iPS cell stockpiling.
Kyoto University professor Jun Takahashi and his colleagues are expected to use stockpiled iPS cells for clinical trials of a treatment for Parkinson's disease. Riken's Masayo Takahashi, whose team conducted a groundbreaking transplant of iPS cells last year into the eyes of a patient suffering from age-related macular degeneration, may also use cells from the stockpile during the next stage of their clinical trials. Keio University plans to use some of Kyoto University's iPS cells in research on repairing spinal cord damage.