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Japanese Health Ministry Approves World-First Trial Using iPS Cells to Treat Spinal Cord Injuries


The Japanese health ministry on Monday approved the world’s first clinical test in which artificially derived stem cells will be used to treat patients with spinal cord injuries. A team of researchers from Keio University, which filed a request for the test with the ministry, will inject neural cells produced from so-called induced pluripotent stem cells – known as iPS cells – into four people who are injured while playing sports or in traffic accidents.

It is the fifth time the government has authorized clinical studies using iPS cells. The patients, aged 18 or older, will undergo the test treatment under the care of a team led by Hideyuki Okano, a professor at the Keio University School of Medicine. Okano and his team have already succeeded in enabling a paralyzed monkey to walk again through the same approach.
The patients will have suffered lost mobility and sensation. The cells will be injected within two to four weeks of the patients’ accidents – the period in which the treatment is believed to be effective.The team will observe the efficacy and safety of the cells for about a year while the patients undergo rehabilitation. The cells to be transplanted will be created from iPS cells in storage at Kyoto University and will be kept frozen.

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