In a pioneering regenerative med study, scientists get a green light to test iPS cells for spinal cord damage

Another world’s first in the use of induced pluripotent stem cells is getting underway in Japan.

Just a few months after the world’s first Parkinson’s patient was given a pioneering iPS transplant at Kyoto University, another university team has come back and won a green light to try and see if they can use the same approach to regenerate nerve cells damaged by a spinal cord injury. 

Japanese health authorities have approved a pitch by a team of scientists at Keio University to transplant a batch of 2 million iPS cells into 4 patients. That dose can later be upped provided it appears to be safe.

Nikkei Asian Review reports that the first patient could be treated as early as this summer.

The move into a human study follows an animal trial in 2012 in which the scientists were able to restore a monkey’s ability to walk. 

Masaya Nakamura will lead the team’s first human study, which will involve a physical rehabilitation program to assist the patients if they can regain lost functions.

These iPS cells can be coaxed to develop into a desired cell type. Notably, in the Kyoto University study, researchers noted their intention to also develop a manufacturing system that could be used to dispatch iPS cells for regenerative med uses around the world. The Kyoto group is providing the iPS cells needed by the team at Keio University.

Kyoto University’s Center for iPS Cell Research and Application is run by Shinya Yamanaka, who won the 2012 Nobel Prize for his discovery of iPS cells.

Stem cell research has seen its ups and downs over the years. Following a burst of enthusiasm in the early 2000s, the first generation of regenerative meds didn’t get very far in the clinic. But with new tech and a better approach, scientists are hopeful this second wave of work will deliver the pioneering success stories needed to build a new field.

Image: Keio University in Minato, Tokyo, Japan Shutterstock

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