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Japan Takes Another Step Toward World's 1st iPS Clinical Trial

  • 2013/02/15

The first-ever clinical trial of induced pluripotent stem cells (iPS cells) may begin as early as the upcoming fiscal year as Japanese researchers look to use the Nobel Prize-winning discovery to treat macular degeneration.

(Photo: Flickr/vernhart)

The ethics committee at the Institute for Biomedical Research and Innovation in Kobe approved Wednesday a trial employing iPS cells as a therapy for age-related macular degeneration.

The team conducting the trial will be led by Dr. Masayo Takahashi, who belongs to the institute's hospital but is also a project leader at Riken, a research foundation affiliated with the Science and Technology Ministry.

Age-related macular degeneration affects mostly middle-aged and older people. Left untreated, it can lead to blindness. Current drugs treat symptoms without curing the disease itself.

The clinical trial is aimed at creating retinal cell sheets from iPS cells and transplanting them into the eyes. Six patients for whom existing drugs do not work will be selected at the institute's hospital. They will be 50 or older and will have corrected visual acuity below 0.3 on the Japanese scale.

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