A panel operating under Japans Ministry of Health has stated that it will allow blood banks that handle umbilical cords to provide the material needed to collect induced pluripotent stem cells. The idea to gather a “stock” of stem cells (or iPS), which are used in regenerative medicine, was part of a proposition from Shinya Yamanaka, a professor at Kyoto University. The members of the approving panel stated that only blood from the umbilical cord that doesn’t go towards leukemia treatment will be used for iPS cells.
Yamanaka also said on Tuesday of this week that he hopes to begin cooperating with the Japanese Red Cross Society with the goal of the society’s data on human leukocyte antigen types being provided to scientists. By using that data and comparing it with blood types for cells, the stock of iPS cells can quickly obtain the type needed that is least likely to be rejected by transplant recipients. As only one in 1,000 people have the HLA types that are least likely to be rejected, scientists would only need to collect several dozen samples to be able to treat nearly 80% of Japan’s population.
These types of blood banks are mostly used to treat those with diseases like leukemia, so the most difficult challenge is expected to be gaining the consent of donors for the cells to be used for iPS stock. But the advantages of working with the blood banks run by the Red Cross or other organizations is that cell types are checked before their registration, meaning the search for the desired type can be quick and simple. Trying to solicit volunteers into donating comes with a huge cost, as close to 200,000 samples would have to be checked for the rare type of cells that are needed.