KOBE – A team led by government-affiliated research institute Riken said Tuesday that it carried out the world's first surgery to transplant into a patient retina cells created from donor iPS cells. By using a stockpile of induced pluripotent stem cells at Kyoto University, not iPS cells made from the patient's own mature cells, the team, including Kobe City Medical Center General Hospital, have reduced the time and costs necessary for the procedure. With the surgery, Japan's regenerative medicine utilizing iPS cells has entered a new phase, according to pundits. The patient in his 60s, who lives in Hyogo Prefecture, had been suffering from exudative age-related macular degeneration, an intractable eye disease that could lead to blindness. The surgery was conducted at the hospital in Kobe, the capital of Hyogo, by Yasuo Kurimoto, head of the hospital's department of ophthalmology, and others.
When she entered medicine in the mid-1980s, Masayo Takahashi chose ophthalmology as her specialty, she said, because she wanted to have a family and thought the discipline would spare her from sudden work calls in the middle of the night, helping her best balance work and life. Three decades later, the 56-year-old mother of two grown-up daughters is at the forefront of the nation's -- even the world's -- research into regenerative medicine. In September 2014, she offered a ray of hope to scores of patients with a severe eye condition when her team at the Riken institute's Center for Developmental Biology in Kobe succeeded in a world-first transplanting of cells made from induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells into a human body. The operation, conducted as a clinical study, involved creating a retinal sheet from iPS cells, which were developed by Shinya Yamanaka, a researcher at Kyoto University. His 2006 discovery of iPS cells, which can grow into any kind of tissue in the body, won him a Nobel Prize in 2012.
Kobe – A hospital said Thursday it has performed the world's first clinical trial of a transplant of photoreceptor cells derived from induced pluripotent stem cells, or iPS cells, to treat a patient with pigmentary retinal degeneration. Kobe City Eye Hospital in Hyogo Prefecture conducted the clinical trial on a patient with the disease, which can cause vision problems including trouble seeing at night due to a progressive loss of photoreceptor cells in the retina. There are some 30,000 sufferers of the genetic disorder in Japan, and there is no known treatment. Depending on how far the disease has progressed, a patient's vision may not improve significantly. Still, the research team aims to verify its safety on humans after it completed testing of the iPS cells on animals.
The government effectively approved Wednesday a plan for the world's first transplant operation involving retinal cells grown from artificially derived stem cells taken from a donor to treat a patient suffering from a serious eye illness. With the health ministry panel's green light for the operation, a team of doctors are preparing to perform the transplant using so-called induced pluripotent stem cells in the early half of this year. The transplant will use certain iPS cells stockpiled by Kyoto University that have shown a lower risk of being rejected by people's immune systems. The team includes researchers from the Riken Center for Developmental Biology and Kobe City Medical Center General Hospital. In contrast to transplants using cells from the patients themselves, experts believe those using iPS cells of another person could reduce costs and wait times.