A Japanese research team has applied for state approval to conduct the world’s first clinical study of transplanting retinal cells grown from artificially derived stem cells of another person, the health ministry said Thursday.

The aim of the procedure using the so-called induced pluripotent stem cells is to treat patients suffering from advanced wet-type age-related macular degeneration, a form of retinal degenerative disease that causes vision to deteriorate and possibly blindness.

If the screening process goes smoothly, the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry may give a green light to the study later this year, enabling Kobe City Medical Center General Hospital and Osaka University to begin performing the surgery in the first half of next year.

In September 2014, a Japanese research team succeeded for the first time in the world in transplanting retinal cells to a woman using iPS cells she produced.

If it becomes possible to stock high quality iPS cells made from other people’s cells and use them, experts believe the costs and time for transplantation will be reduced.

Kyoto University will provide a special type of iPS cell known for reduced risk of rejection, which will be grown into retina cells by the Riken Center for Developmental Biology. The Kobe hospital and Osaka University plan to transplant the cells into about five patients.

In the surgery, a solution containing the iPS-derived retina cells will be injected into the patients’ eyes.

The Kobe hospital and Osaka University applied for the clinical study and the ministry said it received the application Thursday.

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