First human trial of stem cells against Parkinson's to start in Japan

  • First human trial of stem cells against Parkinson's to start in Japan

First human trial of stem cells against Parkinson's to start in Japan

Nobel Prize victor Shinya Yamanaka, who discovered that adult cells can be transformed back into embryo-like cells, added: "We intend to carry on conducting our research carefully, yet expeditiously, in coordination with Kyoto University Hospital, so that new treatment using iPS cells will be brought to patients as soon as possible".

The ground-breaking clinical trial is being led by Jun Takahashi, from the Center for iPS Cell Research and Application (CiRA) at Kyoto University.

The university will monitor the conditions of the patients for two years after the operation. But while these are typically embryonic stem cells (used for a wide array of medical applications), Yamanaka has found a way to manipulate adult stem cells and infect them with a virus that restores them to their immature state.

The study team will inject dopaminergic progenitors, a cell type that develops into neurons that produce dopamine, directly into a region of the brain known to play a key role in the neural degeneration associated with Parkinson's disease.

In the other Japanese cases of treating degenerative diseases using iPS cells, scientists at the Riken national research institute are now conducting clinical tests involving the transplantation of retina tissue created from iPS cells into patients suffering from age-related macular degeneration, an intractable eye disease. A 12-milimeter diameter hole will be drilled on the patient's skull and cells will be injected using a specialized device with a needle.

The team plans to recruit seven participants and to observe each patient for two years after the injection.

The human trial comes after an earlier trial involving monkeys.

As an added precaution against transplant rejection, the Parkinson's patients will also receive a drug called tacrolimus, created to suppress the immune response and prevent the body from attacking the iPS cells.

These can be derived from the patient, making them less likely to be rejected, while also sidestepping ethical qualms about taking cells from embryos.

Parkinson's disease reduces dopamine-producing neurons in the brain and results in tremors in the hands and feet, and stiffness in the body.

Osaka University is also planning a clinical test to treat heart failure by using a heart muscle cell sheet created from iPS cells.