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Kyoto University team produces quality stem cells from umbilical blood

Kyodo

A Kyoto University research institute has produced stem cells for stockpiled use in regenerative medicine from the umbilical blood of a newborn baby that is of higher quality than such cells made from adult blood.

The so-called induced pluripotent stem cells, known as iPS cells, which were derived from cord blood, were created in July and will soon be made available to other research bodies, the Center for iPS Cell Research and Application said Wednesday.

The center, led by Shinya Yamanaka, a 2012 Nobel Prize joint winner in medicine for research on artificially derived cells, has been aiming to stockpile iPS cells, which can be reprogrammed to grow into various human tissues and organs.

If made from a recipient patients’ own cells, iPS cells are said to be free from immune rejection, but their cultivation is time-consuming and expensive.

The process of making iPS cells from blood taken from the umbilical cord is believed to be efficient, and unlike cells from adult blood, cord blood cells are normally subjected to less stress, which can trigger genetic mutation, the institute said.

“Umbilical blood is made of cells from a baby and are of good quality,” Yamanaka said. “It’s better to make use of unimpaired ones than genetically damaged adult cells.”

The Kyoto University center used cord blood kept at a Tokai University hospital after obtaining consent from a donor and family members.

The center is hoping to build a stem cell inventory that can be used by 30 percent to 50 percent of the Japanese population by fiscal 2017.

In addition to swiftly producing iPS cells from stored cord blood, the umbilical blood bank may also help researchers locate people with a gene variety that is less susceptible to immune rejection, even when cells are transplanted to another person. Stockpiles of iPS cells could be built with cells taken from such people.

The world’s first clinical research on a patient using stockpiled iPS cells derived from another person is expected to be conducted in the first half of next year. The Kobe City Medical Center General Hospital is planning to use the cells in a patient with a serious eye illness.

Other clinical applications of the banked cells include treatment of spinal cord injury and Parkinson’s disease.

In September 2014, a research team at the Japanese government-backed Riken institute transplanted retinal cells grown from iPS cells to a woman, marking the world’s first attempt to implant iPS cells from the same patient.