Regenerative medicine is a new method of medicine aimed at completely healing various diseases and injuries that have been difficult to be treated by artificially regenerating tissues or organs of the body. Embryonic stem cells (ES cells) can be differentiated into all kinds of cells that make up the body, and therefore there are increasing expectations for the realization of techniques that regenerate human bodies. In order to realize regenerative medicine, it is indispensable to develop techniques that differentiate cells necessary for treatments from these stem cells and to analyze the mechanisms of its differentiation.
This research project was carried out jointly by us with Harvard University in the US. Various studies were conducted by making use of each other’s know-hows: The Japanese group focused on the induction of differentiation from stem cells of mice, etc. and the US group focused on the induction of differentiation from human ES cells. Particularly the Japanese group established an ES cell culture method which uses complete serum-free media not containing substances derived from other animal species. Not only the method of inducing myocardial cells and tracheal cells from mouse ES cells was developed, but also pancreas tissues with a structure comparable to the actual pancreas were successfully induced. Further, the US group successfully directly demonstrated the diversity of human ES cells for the first time.
It is expected that technological developments toward early realization of safe regenerative medicine will be accelerated in the future by applying these techniques and results to human stem cells.