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2013年1月11日 (金)

iPS研究 再生医療実用化へ支援充実を

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Jan. 11, 2013)
Provide more govt support for practical use of iPS cells
iPS研究 再生医療実用化へ支援充実を(1月10日付・読売社説)

The ultimate goal of medicine is to completely heal disease and injuries. Induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells, which can be grown into different body cells, could become a pivotal technology that helps achieve this goal.

The functions of organs needing treatment could be restored if iPS cells made from the patient's skin cells are grown into those of the organs and then implanted in the patient's own body. Patients would have no risk of rejecting the organ because the injected cells are from their body. We hope such treatment--which once seemed like the stuff of dreams--will be put into practical use.

Kyoto University Prof. Shinya Yamanaka, the creator of iPS cells, won the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine last year. Japan is among the leading nations in the basic research of regenerative medicine.

The government's recent announcement that it will help beef up iPS research must be music to the ears of many patients. The Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Ministry has revised its road map on iPS cell research and development, moving up the previous schedule and now aiming to establish treatment methods for patients with nerve damage within five years, among other targets.


Fierce competition

A supplementary budget for the current fiscal year ending in March, which the government will endorse next week, is expected to feature measures for improving research facilities and supporting studies by universities and companies. The Economy, Trade and Industry Ministry has reportedly been examining how it can help develop related industries.

International competition to put iPS technology into practical use is fierce. The United States, which regards iPS cells as a priority field in bioscience research, allocates a huge budget for research and development in this area. In European nations, the business and academic sectors have been rapidly accelerating their joint projects. Japan must not be left behind in this race. It should revitalize its medical industry by putting innovative medical technology into practical use.

Massive investments are needed for research and development of medical science and treatments. It is vital for the government to provide continuing support to these fields as researchers inevitably go through failures before achieving success and putting their studies to practical use. A framework also should be established promptly to encourage companies and universities to take on bold challenges in these fields.


Cancer fears

Some observers have voiced fears about the safety of iPS cells, saying they might turn cancerous when used for treatment. However, there are signs this concern could be resolved, as Yamanaka and other researchers have developed technology to eliminate factors that could turn iPS cells cancerous.

The Riken national research institute will start clinical research on retinal treatment using iPS cells by the end of this year, which will be the nation's first clinical application involving such cells. Kyoto University, meanwhile, plans to create a bank to stock frozen iPS cells made from cells from a number of people. We hope these institutions will speed up their research.

The biggest issue is surely how clinical research--which is conducted to ensure a treatment under development is safe and effective--can be streamlined. Japan's clinical research system has been criticized for taking far longer to approve research results than those of other countries.

The Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry should knuckle down to the task of improving the clinical research system.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Jan. 10, 2013)
(2013年1月10日01時21分  読売新聞)


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