CHENNAI: Clinical trials to regenerate organs using Induced Pluripotent Stem cells (iPS) would begin by this year or early nexty year, said stem cell maverick Shinya Yamanaka. Delivering the India Distinguished Lectureship Series in the city, Yamanaka who has been credited with the successful extraction of embryonic-like stem cells from a patch of adult skin, said that they were likely to begin with the eye. “It’s easy to transplant stem cells into the eye and observing any changes or side-effects is simpler. But, most importantly, the number of cells that need to be transplanted are in the range of 10,000,” he said.
When compared with spinal cord injuries that warrant 10 million cells at least, this was an easier place to begin trials, he added.
Yamanaka also elaborated that after his team managed to produce iPS cells at the Kyoto University in 2007, they have been working on making the process faster and more streamlined. “At present it takes about 6-7 months for these (iPS) cells to be extracted and ready for application. But for spinal injuries, the cells need to be applied within four weeks of injury,” he pointed out.
As his induced pluripotent stem cells have almost wiped out the ethical question raised by using embryonic stem cells, he said that the setting up of iPS celll banks would help in the future.
While Yamanaka has said that the production capability of these cells is close to infinite,they differed from embryonic (cord blood) stem cells in a way that they were directly applicable in the regeneration process of more organ systems.
He also said while it has been envisioned that Type-I diabetes and developmental disorders are believed to be among the applications of this cell therapy, using them for drug discovery is also an important application.