World’s First Reprogrammed Stem Cell Implemented on Japanese Man

Researchers successfully implemented reprogrammed induced pluripotent stem cells (iPS) with the use of an anonymous donor.

IPS cells are significantly different from conventional stem cells in the sense that they are derived from mature cells of an individual. The process of retrieving and developing iPS cells starts with the extraction of mature cells from the subject. These cells are readily available in most parts of the human body, including the skin. When mature cells are extracted, researchers reprogram these cells to an embryonic state, turning it into a stem cell. This reprogramming process enables researchers to then use the iPS cells to treat diseases in other parts of the body.

On March 28, a Japanese man from the Hyogo prefecture of Japan recovered from an age-related macular degeneration after receiving reprogrammed iPS cells extracted from the skin of an anonymous donor. The cells were transplanted onto the retina of the patient to prevent his disease from leading to permanent blindness or other serious long-term illnesses.

The procedure was completed at the Kobe City Medical Center General Hospital, by surgeon Yasuo Kurimoto, who oversaw the entire process of extracting, reprogramming and transplanting iPS cells. The successful transplant of iPS cells on the patient suffering with age-related macular degeneration convinced the Japan’s health ministry to approve five additional patients to undergo the same procedure to treat potentially severe diseases.

According to various reports, the Kobe City Medical Center General Hospital led a similar procedure back in 2014 when surgeon Kurimoto helped a Japanese woman receive retinal tissue developed from stem cells extracted from the patient’s own iPS cell. At the time, Kurimoto extracted mature cells from the patient’s skin and used those cells to develop iPS cells and next-generation stem cells.

The difference between the 2014 and 2017 study is that the latter relied on the mature cells of an anonymous donor. The recent study of Kurimoto proved that mature cells from donors can be utilized to help patients to prevent or recover from serious diseases that weren’t possible to treat prior to the use of iPS cells.

In addition to the on-going study of Kurimoto, Shinya Yamanaka, a Nobel-prizewinning stem-cell scientist from the Kyoto University, is currently developing an iPS cell bank which can be applied to and adopted by around 30 to 50 percent of Japan’s population. Using the same method of reprogramming mature cells, Yamanaka is planning to establish a cell bank that can be utilized commercially by surgeons across the country to prevent diseases and restore lost function by March of 2018.

Although Yamanaka’s iPS Cell Stock for Regenerative Medicine is based on the cell lines from a single donor as of now, in the next few years, Yamanaka and his team plan on securing HLA cell lines from up to 10 donors to match the majority of the Japanese population.

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