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  • Conversation: Behind the Scenes / 10 years after iPS, discovery of medicines speeding up

    • December 15, 2017 12:06 PM GMT
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      Behind the Scenes / 10 years after iPS, discovery of medicines speeding up

      By Satoshi Suwa and Yusuke Tomiyama / Yomiuri Shimbun Staff Writers
      Nov. 21 marked 10 years since Kyoto University Prof. Shinya Yamanaka and his colleagues announced that they had produced human induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells (see below). In September, the application of iPS cells for the development of new drugs entered a new phase, when a clinical trial began at Kyoto University Hospital for a candidate drug discovered using iPS cells from people suffering from an incurable disease.
      At the opening ceremony for the university’s Center for iPS Cell Research and Application (CiRA) in May 2010, Yamanaka, CiRA’s director, said, “Although regenerative medicine is usually considered to be the field in which iPS cells should be put to use, our primary objective is to develop drugs for incurable and rare diseases.”
      He emphasized the importance of using iPS cells not just in regenerative medicine for the recovery of lost bodily functions, but also in discovering new medicines.
      In the field of regenerative medicine, research institute RIKEN and others in 2014 became the first to use iPS cells in clinical research in a study of patients with an incurable eye disease. RIKEN leads the world in such research, and next year it plans to carry out clinical studies for diseases of the heart and spinal cord as well.
      The latest clinical trial at the hospital represents the first to use iPS in the field of drug discovery. The trial is being carried out on persons suffering from fibrodysplasia ossificans progressiva (FOP), an incurable disease in which muscle tissue turns into bone. The number of people in the nation suffering from this disease is extremely small, estimated at just 60 to 80, but the research began to move forward thanks to skin samples donated by a sufferer.
      The trial uses rapamycin, a drug already being used to prevent rejection in organ transplants. First, iPS cells made from the cells of FOP sufferers were used to recreate the disease in vitro, and then roughly 6,800 types of compounds were sprinkled over the FOP cells individually. With this process, the researchers discovered that rapamycin is effective against the disease.
      Read more: http://bit.ly/iPS10years

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