A health ministry panel in Japan approved a human clinical study, the first of its kind, that uses induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) to treat spinal cord injuries, Reuters reported.
iPSCs, which can develop into any cell in the body and are produced in the lab from adult cells, are rapidly gaining scientific popularity. Pro-life groups laud them because they do not require the destruction of human embryos. The research team from Tokyo’s Keio University plans to inject about 2 million iPSCs into damaged areas of the spines of patients who recently sustained injuries that resulted in loss of sensory or mobility functions. They hope the iPSCs will stimulate nerve regeneration.
Last year, clinical trials began in Japan using iPSCs to treat Parkinson’s disease, and the health ministry panel has already approved the use of iPSCS for treating patients with rare eye and blood diseases. Osaka University plans to transplant a heart muscle cell sheet derived from iPSCs into the hearts of patients suffering from serious heart failure, The Japan Times reported. —J.B.