• Kyodo

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Japanese Nobel Prize winner Shinya Yamanaka says he sees potential for tapping artificial intelligence to more quickly and accurately check the safety of induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells in regenerative medicine.

“I want to use artificial intelligence to analyze the enormous amount of data on the human genome and assess the safety (of the cells) in an objective manner and without oversight,” Yamanaka said in a recent interview.

Yamanaka, a Kyoto University professor who won the 2012 Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine for his advanced research on iPS cells, was referring to checking for genetic abnormalities before iPS transplants take place to determine whether problems such as cancer could develop later.

The cells, which can grow into any type of human body tissue, are expected to be applied in regenerative medicine and drug development.

“Making substantive progress, regenerative medicine is now reaching a stage where it is being applied to humans,” said Yamanaka, who began his work in the development of iPS cells a decade ago, adding that the “real work starts from here.”

Before any transplant takes place, researchers must first confirm there are no genetic mutations that could be linked to cancer later.

Using cutting-edge “deep learning” technology, researchers believe AI is a better way to sift through volumes of data available such as new genetic mutations being reported worldwide.

“There is a limit to human knowledge. I want AI to search for information in theses, academic presentations and other channels, and make a judgment,” Yamanaka said.

Clinical research is underway for transplantation of retinal cells derived from iPS cells.

In September 2014, a Japanese research team succeeded in transplanting retinal cells grown from iPS cells, the first time iPS-derived cells were introduced into a human body through surgery.

In a second transplant, possibly next year, the team plans to grow cells from iPS cells that have been stockpiled.

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