Japanese team conducts world’s first trial of spinal cord stem cells

Researchers from Keio University in Tokyo want to investigate whether induced pluripotent stem cells (iPS) can be used to treat the injury

Researchers from Keio University in Tokyo want to investigate whether induced pluripotent stem cells (iPS) can be used to treat the injuries.

A Japanese university said Friday it has successfully transplanted stem cells into a patient with spinal cord injury, in the first clinical trial of its kind.

There is currently no effective treatment for paralysis caused by severe spinal cord injuries, which are believed to affect more than 100,000 people in Japan alone.

Surgeons from Keio University in Tokyo want to investigate whether induced pluripotent stem cells (iPS) can be used to treat the injuries.

iPS cells are made by returning mature, already specialized cells to a juvenile state.

They can then be asked to mature into different types of cells, with the Keio University study using iPS-derived cells from the neural stem.

The first step in the trial involved implanting more than two million iPS-derived cells into a patient’s spinal cord during surgery last month.

“This is definitely a huge step forward,” Masaya Nakamura, a professor at Keio University who is leading the study, told reporters.

But there is still “a lot of work to be done” before the treatment can be applied, he added.

The first phase of the study aims to confirm the safety of the transplant method, the researchers said.

The patient will be monitored by an independent committee for up to three months to decide whether it is safe to continue the study and whether others can receive transplants.

The team also hopes to see if the stem cell implants will improve neurological function and quality of life.

The university received government approval for the trial in 2019, but recruitment was temporarily suspended due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Details of the patients remain confidential, but the team is targeting people who were injured 14-28 days before surgery.

The number of cells implanted was determined after safety experiments in animals, and the researchers cautioned that while they will monitor for therapeutic effects, the main purpose of the study is to study the safety of injecting the cells.


Japanese trial for spinal cord injury treatment with stem cells


© 2022 AFP

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