On July 30, Kyoto University held a press conference to announce that their team will conduct the first clinical trial to transplant an iPS nerve cell into the brain of a Parkinson’s patient. Parkinson's disease is an incurable disease that has no fundamental treatment, and this project is expected to be a new attempt in regenerative medicine. In order to establish a cure for the disease, the university officials said that there are still some goals to be met, but they would plan the project appropriately and safely.
According to Kyoto University, CiRA (Center for iPS Cell Research and Application headed by Shinya Yamanaka), and the university’s hospital, Prof. Ryosuke Takahashi shall be the doctor in charge of the clinical trial. Prof. Jun Takahashi of CiRA shall cooperate with the research group. There are 7 subjects aged 50-69. The patients participating in this trial are those who could not gain control over the symptoms by medication. The clinical trials are scheduled to start on August 1.
Specifically, 5 million nerve cells made from iPS cells shall be transplanted in to the part of the brain called striatum, by using a special needle. Because the procedure is a cell transplant, the subject will be hospitalized for about one month. To counter possible rejection, immunosuppressive drugs will also be administered.
The number of Parkinson’s patients in Japan is increasing. According to the 2014 Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare, statistics, it is estimated that the number of patients has reached 160,000 and is still on the rise. It is the second most common neurodegenerative disease next to Alzheimer’s disease (530,000 patients in Japan). Parkinson’s is an incurable disease in which limbs like hands and feet tremble and stiffen gradually. The number of patients is expected to increase rapidly due to Japan’s super-aging society.
As clinical applications of iPS cells, researchers have successfully transplanted retinal cells from iPS cells into patients with severe eye diseases. Osaka University plans to transplant heart muscle sheets made from iPS cells into patients with heart failure, and there are plans to carry out this transplant within in this fiscal year (ending March 31, 2018).