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How the important people view?

Significant development can be expected in the application areas, such as the clinical field, only because there is essential fundamental research

Prof. Goro Eguchi

Photo:Prof. Goro Eguchi

Prof. Goro Eguchi

Mr. Eguchi is specializing in embryology and one of the researchers leading global studies of embryology, who mainly led studies of the development of the eyes and regeneration of ocular tissues of vertebrates.
After positions of Professor of Nagoya University, Professor of National Institute for Basic Biology, and president of Kumamoto University, he assumed the post of president of the incorporated educational institution, Syokei-Gakuen, and has been involved in the promotion of research strategies and research support in the field of life science in Japan as a prior fellow of the Center for Research and Development Strategy, JST, since 2004. He has been playing a major role in making significant trends in "iPS research" since 2007, which has received attention as an issue of the importance research in Japan.
Thus, the first researcher interview of iPS Trend is impossible without Mr. Eguchi. Now, let's start the interview.

Interviewer :
What did you think about this website?

Eguchi :
Because most Japanese researchers can study because of funding from tax, widespread release of information to the public is very important. It would be ideal if iPS research was understood by as many people as possible and eventually social consensus on conducting such research was obtained.

Interviewer :
I would like to know what you think of iPS research closely related with your specialty.

Eguchi :
It is no doubt a wonderful research field. Japanese researchers obtained results under fierce worldwide competition, and, for example, Japan can be highly expected to win a Nobel Prize.
However, what I would like to say to avoid misunderstanding is that the word "banno", which means almighty and is frequently used these days, is not entirely appropriate. Because PS of iPS is an abbreviation of pluripotent cell, it should be described as "tano", which means pluripotent.
It is easy to perform grafting of plants, but not in the case of animal cells. Strictly speaking, iPS cells are different from fertilized ovum itself or ES cells. Therefore, if the public imagines from the word "banno", there is a potential for misunderstanding that iPS cells can develop into ovum or spermatozoon.
At present, we should consider them as pluripotent cells that can develop into various cells making up our bodies.

Interviewer :
However, I am sure that we generally have high expectations for iPS cells.

Eguchi :
Considerable research on certain types of cells, such as nerve cells, has been conducted, and it is good to know that the progress is significant enough to use them clinically in the relatively near future. It is true that progress has been made to some extent and that individual cells such as blood cells, which function by themselves, are created with iPS technology.
However, we can not say that "anything is now possible with iPS", because it is not so easy to construct complex systems that function as a three dimensional structure, including the liver, kidneys, and other organs (although blood cells can be created).
It will be a long time until new organs can replace damaged organs of patients, and this is not as easy as expected. The possibility that iPS can not adapt to the living body and becomes unregulated cells still can not be excluded.

Interviewer :
Then, more fundamental findings are required.

Eguchi :
That is right.
I feel that fundamental research should be pursued now in order to develop this iPS research and make it useful for people in the future. It is certain that iPS has a great potential because it has been investigated to a considerable extent and produced dominant research trends worldwide. However, I think this is also the time to form academic foundations.
For example, why are somatic cells, which have once differentiated into skin cells, "reprogrammed" to be like cells of the early embryo? It is important to "reveal the principle" by pursuing fundamental research regarding the essence of life. Significant developments can be expected in the application areas such as the clinical field only because there is such essential fundamental research, and true development of science and technology is impossible without pursuing such research.
It is a mistake and one-sided view favoring results to think that creating organs is all that is needed, which may result in a house built on sand.
This is what we have to be most aware of since there are such high expectations.

Interviewer :
I agree. Do you have any other opinions?

Eguchi :
Because human cells are used, ethical considerations and obtaining social consensus are crucial. It is also important that patients have expectations for iPS, but creating humans in the future would be horrifying.
It is essential now for both researchers and the public to consider what, how and how much to do. I feel, as with the argument over gene recombination technology, that it is a major role of the Japan Science and Technology Agency (JST) to conduct awareness programs and provide a clear understanding for the public.
I would like iPS Trend to play such a role as well.


Interview by Miwako Homma, supervisor of iPS Trend website, and Morimoto Shigeo from the Japan Science and Technology Agency.
Published on 28 April, 2009

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