At a symposium held at Kobe on January 27, Sunday, Nobel Prize winner and Kyoto University professor Shinya Yamanaka announced that a project to stockpile artificially derived stem cells to be used for clinical research will begin sometime in early February. The project aims to produce induced pluripotent stem cells from people with blood having the rare HLA type cell form. Such a type is less likely to be rejected by the body’s immune system when transplanted.
According to the university’s Center for iPS Cell Research and Application, consent of participants possessing those rare cells have already been obtained so that the center can collect enough blood to produce cells for transplants that could be given to 20% of the Japanese population with minimum risk of the immune system rejecting it. The cells will then be stockpiled in order for them to be immediately used. This will save time and money that are normally spent on creating iPS cells from the patient’s own cells.
At a meeting between Yamanaka and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at the latter’s office on Monday, January 28, Abe presented Yamanaka a letter of appreciation, lauding the scientist as a national pride. Earlier this month, the government made known its plan to spend ¥110 billion (approx. $1.2 billion) over the next 10 years to promote regenerative medicine through iPS cell technology. Yamanaka is co-winner of the 2012 Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine for his contribution in the discovery that mature cells can be reprogrammed to become any particular part of the body to be used for transplant.