Screening on first iPS study set

JIJI

A working group of the health ministry’s Health Sciences Council will begin screening a plan by the state-backed research institute Riken to conduct what would become the world’s first clinical study using induced pluripotent stem cells.

A committee on human stem cell clinical studies will start closed screenings at the end of this month on a Riken plan aimed at establishing a cure for exudative age-related macular degeneration using iPS cells.

Among its activities, the panel will check the safety of retina cells created from iPS cells, which are capable of developing into any type of tissue, and inspect the cell culture facility.

The results will be reported to the working group, which will ask the health minister to give the go-ahead for the clinical research if the Riken plan passes the screening.

If the plan is approved by the minister, the study is expected to begin during fiscal 2013, which starts in April, sources said.

A member of the working group called for shortening the screening period, which usually takes six months, due to intensifying international competition for clinical application of iPS cells.

But a ministry official said the screening will go ahead as usual.

A team of researchers led by Masayo Takahashi from Riken’s Center for Developmental Biology filed for ministry approval for the clinical study plan on Feb. 28.