In this urgent proposal, the Center for Research and Development Strategy (CRDS) of the Japan Science and Technology Agency (JST) would propose following strategies which the Japanese Government should address in promoting stem cell research, in response to the achievement of establishment of human induced pluripotent stem cells (iPS cells).
Dr. Shinya Yamanaka, a professor at Institute for Frontier Medical Sciences at Kyoto University announced a epoch making scientific achievement to obtain iPS cells which can be generatedfrom adult human skin, and differentiated to various cells such as nerve cells, cardiomyocytes, chondrocytic cells and fat cells without using human eggs (Takahashi et al., Cell 131: 861-872, 2007).
The above research achievement appeals that stem cell research in Japan would lead this research fields in the World. At the same time, it is also expected that this methodology will drastically move forward the research and development of regenerative medicine which still has unsolved ethics issues associated with the establishment of human embryonic stem cells (ES cells) and solution of transplant reaction. However, while research groups in Europe and the United States are fiercely catching up, the investment by the Japanese Government in stem cell research is not sufficient compared with those of other major countries, and the number of related clinical research in Japan is also lagging far behind.
In order to meet the medical needs of the people worldwide who are expecting the immediate implementation of regenerative medicine which can cure diseases difficult to treat with the current medicine
Within the fiscal 2007, following issues should be implemented.
1) In order to progress research on iPS cells immediately, a powerful research team under the direction of Prof. Yamanaka should be established and reinforced. It should be also urgently supported to improve and expand laboratories for the participating researchers in the team so that they can conduct their own research efficiently.
2) Urgent research budget would be funded to accelerate the research described above.
3) It is also required to form a research management team taking responsibility for coordination with related organizations supporting the above research, public relations, intellectual property rights, etc., which makes laboratory researchers to concentrate on their own research.
JST-CRDS also proposed following strategy to be implemented within 5 years after fiscal 2008.
1) Intensive investment should be funded for the progress of iPS cell and related research fields to enhance and enlarge research basis. It is also needed to establish a research system applying the iPS cell research not only to regenerative medicine, also to drug discovery and other possible areas.
2) A core institute for stem cells and related research fields should be established, which plays a key role for networking Japanese researchers as well as global ones. It is also considered for the institute to play an important role as a research hub in Asia in these fields.
3) Concrete guidelines dealing with ethical, social and legal issues would be developed to improve the environment fro suitable promotion of stem cell and related research and development.
4) Further public understanding regarding stem cell research including iPS cells would be promoted.
Note that although the JST-CRDS has already published the strategic proposal “Stem Cell Homeostasis” in October 2007, based on the opinions of many researchers including Prof. Yamanaka, we hereby make an urgent proposal in response to research achievements by Prof. Yamanaka, which was rapidly developed from the forecast made at the time.