Gov't OKs world's 1st test using iPS cells to treat corneal disease

Japan's health ministry conditionally approved Tuesday the world's first clinical test to treat patients with a corneal disease by using artificially derived stem cells.
The test, to be conducted by a team of researchers from Osaka University, will be the sixth time the government has authorized clinical studies using so-called induced pluripotent stem cells.
The team will transplant 0.05-millimeter thick sheet-like corneal tissues produced from iPS cells into four adult patients, who suffer from a disease that brings corneal haze and decreased vision.
The first transplant operation will be conducted as early as June, the team said.
The team aims to put the treatment to practical use within five to six years.
The disease, called corneal epithelial stem cell deficiency, is caused by losing cells in the eye that produce the cornea due to illness or injury. Safe and effective medical treatments have yet to be established.
A total of 1,600 patients are waiting for corneal donations in Japan, according to an estimate by the ministry. The Osaka University team's treatment may become a new option for such patients.
A ministry committee required the team to provide more detailed documents explaining about the clinical test to the patients before the test is conducted.
The iPS cells, developed by Kyoto University's Shinya Yamanaka who won the 2012 Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine for the achievement, can grow into any type of body tissue.
The world's first clinical test using iPS cells was conducted in 2014 by the government-backed Riken institute, transplanting retina cells into an individual with a different eye disease.
The other four tests have been tackling Parkinson's disease, heart disease, platelet transfusion and damaged spinal cords.

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