OSAKA -- A stockpile of stem cells derived from other people will be used in clinical trials of cell transplants for patients with an incurable eye disease, a potential breakthrough that could sharply reduce costs and waiting time.
Masayo Takahashi of the government-affiliated Riken research institute announced the plan Friday. Under a project led by her, a patient with age-related macular degeneration received a transplant of cell sheets made from induced pluripotent stem cells, or iPS cells, in September. The iPS cells were created from the patient's own cells to avoid transplant rejection.
For the second trial, slated to take place as early as 2017, iPS cells derived from other people will be used. While the first method is believed to have cost 50 million yen to 100 million yen ($410,600 to $821,300), Takahashi said that using stockpiled cells could reduce the cost to less than 10 million yen. And preparation time would be shortened from nearly one year to about six months.
"From a stock of iPS cells from one person, we can cultivate enough cells to transplant to dozens of patients," Takahashi said.
Kyoto University and others working to prepare a frozen stockpile of iPS cells for distribution will choose donors with special physical attributes unlikely to cause rejection.
Experiments on monkeys have yielded promising results. Little or no medication to curb rejection may be needed.
The iPS cell bank, with thorough control of safety and quality, is expected to help clear many hurdles to making regenerative medicine using stem cells accessible.