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Clinical studies will start within five years on induced pluripotent stem cells, or iPS cells, which have the potential to grow into any type of tissue, starting with cells that could be used to cure an eye disease, the government said Wednesday.

The Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Ministry has compiled a road map on iPS cell research for a 10-year period that details the national goal of testing transplants of iPS cells for regenerative medicine to treat various types of diseases.

A team of Kyoto University researchers said in November 2007 they had succeeded in reprogramming human skin cells to create iPS cells. The government subsequently allocated ¥4.5 billion in fiscal 2008 and ¥14.5 billion in fiscal 2009 to support iPS cell research.

The road map, worked out by 30 experts, says Japan should aim to establish a way of producing high-quality cells and to launch an iPS cell bank for future clinical applications of the technology within two years.

It says basic research on such cells should be conducted within five years.

The research schedule calls for generating retinal pigment epithelial cells to cure age-related macular degeneration in five years, cardiac muscle in five to seven years, and hematopoietic stem cells to treat leukemia and aplastic anemia in seven years or more.

Kyoto University professor Shinya Yamanaka has led the world in producing iPS cells. Yamanaka’s team and another from the University of Wisconsin have separately reprogrammed human skin cells to behave like human embryonic stem cells.

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