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CREST Research Supervisor Dr. Toshio Suda talks about iPS cell research and what will come next (3) -All 4 episodes-

Dr. Toshio Suda

Japan has accumulated rich experiences in stem cell research

Interviewer :
I don't mean to be rude, but it seems to me that Japan has not enough experiences in stem cell research and only Dr. Yamanaka is prominent in this field.

Suda :
That is not the situation. There were many scientists studying hemopoietic cells between the 60s and the 80s. Later,there were scientists working on stem cells including iPS cells and germline stem cells, to publish many results. It is to say that we have more accumulated experiences in Japan than in other countries.
In the field of ES cell research, I can say that we have less experience, but it does not mean that other countries go always ahead of Japan.
There are many studies on ES cells in other countries, but they are often conducted in an empirical manner. There seem to be more elaborate studies conducted based on developmental biology in Japan.
For example, last week I was invited to a meeting on 'hypoxia' held in Keystone in Colorado, where US researchers appreciated that Japan is strong in developmental biology and stem cell research.

Interviewer :
It seems that Japanese scientists' works are not highly appreciated in the US, don't you think?

Dr. Toshio Suda

Suda :
Yes, they are. It is a Japanese post-doctoral fellow working in the US who led a leading work using a biochemical approach presented at the Keystone meeting on hypoxia.
Such a scientist is not supported well after coming back to Japan. In order to build a network of these young and highly qualified Japanese scientists, it is important to have funding organizations support them sufficiently.

Interviewer :
The US is making the most of scientists from other countries.

Suda :
That is right.
The US organizes research programs to make the most of these scientists, and is looking for highly qualified Japanese post-doctoral fellows.
The Japanese government has launched the WPI program (the World Premier International Research Center Initiative) under MEXT to recruit scientists from other countries, however, it is faced with some difficulties due to language and cultural barriers.

Cooperation with chemical and pharmaceutical industries for applications of iPS cells

Interviewer :
Could you explain the story that we will be able to use iPS cells for understanding the mechanisms of diseases including Alzheimer's and Parkinson's?

Suda :
For studying diseases, it is not difficult to collect as large a quantity of blood as we want. In contrast, it is difficult to collect human neurons, and it will be better if we will be able to produce neurons from iPS cells by inducing differentiation.
Not only neurons but also brain, liver and heart cells are difficult to collect, and it will be better if we will be able to produce these cells from iPS cells.

Interviewer :
If such iPS cell derived cells are available for disease models, they will lead to drug discovery.

Suda :
We need to work jointly with chemical and pharmaceutical industries for developing applications. However, Japanese industries do not come up with us. Japanese big pharmaceutical companies have launched little business in the market of regenerative medicine.
In the US, there are venture companies who are doing well in this business, while in Japan, venture companies have poor product ranges and are going to disappear soon. Successful US venture businesses have their own well-selling basic products and on this basis they promote their iPS cell research.
Dr. Yamanaka said, "there are scientists who are studying iPS cells because they can get funding if they say they study iPS cells, but we can not expect much from such scientists, and we need scientists who have a strong basis and are able to study iPS cells in connection with this basis".
I expect that an IT company will launch a new business to work on bioinformatics of iPS cells.


Interviewed by Katsuaki Sato,Mio Watanabe(Japan Science Technology Agency)
Published on 26 March, 2010

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Dr. Toshio Suda

Professor for developmental biology courses, The Sakaguchi Laboratory, School of Medicine, Keio University, visiting professor at the Institute of Molecular Embryology and Genetics, Doctor of Medicine, physician, and, certified physician and educator of the Japanese Society of Hematology.

In 1974 : Graduated from School of Medicine, Yokohama City University
Since 1974 : Resident physician at the Department of Pediatrics, Kanagawa Children's Medical Center
Since 1978 : Assistant at the Department of Hematopoiesis, Institute of Hematology, Jichi Medical University
Since 1982 : Research associate at the Department of Internal Medicine, Medical University of South Carolina
Since 1984 : Instructor at the Department of Hematopoiesis, Institute of Hematology, Jichi Medical University
Since 1991 : Associate professor of hematology at the Department of Hematopoiesis, Institute of Hematology, Jichi Medical University
Since 1992 : Professor at the Division of Developmental Regulation, the Institute of Molecular Embryology and Genetics, School of Medicine, Kumamoto University
Since 2000 : Chief at the Institute of Molecular Embryology and Genetics, School of Medicine, Kumamoto University
Since 2000 : Professor at the Department of Hematopoiesis, the Division of Organogenesis, the Institute of Molecular Embryology and Genetics, School of Medicine, Kumamoto University
Since 2002 : The present post

From 2000 to 2004 : Project leader of "Characterization of Somatic Stem Cells and Tissue Reconstruction", Research for the Future Program, Japan Society for the Promotion of Science.
Since 2008 : Research Supervisor of "Fundamental Technologies for Medicine Concerning the Generation and Regulation of Induced Pluripotent Stem (iPS) Cells", CREST, JST, and committee member of The Japanese Society of Hematology.

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