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Kyoto University eyes human iPS cell transplant to heal knee joints


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A Kyoto University research team aims to conduct a clinical trial to transplant cartilage made from induced pluripotent stem cells into patients with damaged knee joints.

The team announced on Nov. 27 that it has submitted a plan to the government for approval.

An expert panel with the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare is expected to examine the content of the project.

If the panel gives it a green light, researchers will perform their first transplant in fiscal 2020.

Cartilage damage is sometimes caused by accidents or sports injuries, and can lead joints to become painful or deformed. People also lose cartilage due to aging.

The university’s plan, submitted on Nov. 7, said several adult patients suffering partial loss of cartilage because of joint damage will receive the transplants.

The university will not solicit applicants from the public for the trial.

The team will create dozens of masses of cartilage tissues made from human iPS cells for transplantation. The masses each measure 1-3 millimeters in diameter. The number of cells contained in such tissues is expected to total in the tens of millions.

For the project, researchers will use the iPS cells stockpiled at the university’s Center for iPS Cell Research and Application, not ones from the patients who will receive the transplants.

The Kyoto University project can reduce risks of surgery to take out cartilage from patients as it uses iPS cells derived from a third party.

To confirm the safety of the transplants, the researchers will follow up on the condition of the patients for a year.

There are several ways to treat patients with cartilage damage with regenerative medicine, other than by using iPS cells.

One company in Aichi Prefecture has already gained government approval for a product that is used for treatment to transplant cartilage extracted from a patient for cultivation back into the patient.

A startup in Hiroshima has been conducting a clinical trial in which a patient with cartilage damage is being treated with mesenchymal stem cells from a third party.

The strength of a method using iPS cells is that it can regenerate an unlimited number of cartilage tissues of uniform quality.

(This article was written by Kazuya Goto and Ryosuke Nonaka.)

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