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2012年10月13日 (土)

iPS細胞 医療応用へ支援体制を整えよ

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Oct. 13, 2012)
Build a system to support clinical use of iPS cells
iPS細胞 医療応用へ支援体制を整えよ(10月12日付・読売社説)

The race to put induced pluripotent stem cells into practical use will likely intensify soon as iPS cells are expected to play a pivotal role in regenerative medicine.

Countries are already competing to research and develop iPS cells, which can be grown into different body cells, in hopes that iPS cells can be applied to various fields including regenerative medicine.

Japan must not miss the boat--the government should take the initiative to improve the support system for clinical applications of iPS cells. There is no time to waste.

The aim of regenerative medicine is to replace or repair organs and tissues damaged by disease or injury with new cells.

The fact that Kyoto University Prof. Shinya Yamanaka, the creator of iPS cells, won the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine shows that Japan is leading the world in the basic research of regenerative medicine.

The Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Ministry has decided to subsidize Yamanaka's iPS research with about 20 billion yen to 30 billion yen over about 10 years, to provide him with a stable research environment with long-term assistance.

It is crucial for the government to continue implementing such measures based on a strategic vision.


Delays in therapeutic application

However, there is a big problem in Japan's regenerative medicine--although the nation has a remarkable record in basic research, it lags behind other countries in therapeutic application. This problem is not limited to iPS cells research.

Sheets of laboratory-grown skin cells have already been used to treat burns. However, domestically, only one other regenerative treatment--for cartilage tissue--is approved by the government, while about 50 treatments have been approved globally.

One of the underlying reasons why Japan lags behind other countries in therapeutic application is said to be a problem with clinical tests. The efficacy and safety of treatments and drugs are confirmed through clinical tests conducted on patients. However, many of the nation's hospitals are relatively small, making it difficult for them to find patients willing to participate in clinical tests.

It is necessary for the government to establish hospitals that will play a leading role in the nation's clinical tests. Other medical institutions must cooperate with such hospitals to effectively conduct clinical trials. Establishing such a system is important.


Improve quality of clinical studies

The quality of clinical studies conducted should also be improved.

Looking at the number of articles carried in major U.S. and European medical journals, Japan ranked high in basic research, but ranked 25th in clinical research. The number of Japanese clinical research articles carried in such journals is about one-fortieth of the number of U.S. articles, which led the rankings.

This example shows Japan's weakness in clinical research and lower-than-expected achievements in the field.

It is also essential to speed up the governmental approval process for regenerative medicine treatments.

Earlier this month, the Democratic Party of Japan agreed with the Liberal Democratic Party and New Komeito to establishing a basic law concerning clinical applications of regenerative medicine. The parties should pass a bill on establishing the basic law as soon as possible to prepare guidelines on promoting practical implementation of the technology.

(From the Yomiuri Shimbun, Oct. 12, 2012)
(2012年10月12日01時44分  読売新聞)


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