The first induced pluripotent stem cell human trial — that is, ethical stem cells made from skin or other tissues — is about to begin. Like the two (or is it three?) existing embryonic stem cell trials, it has to do with eye disease. From the Nature News story:
On 1 August, researchers at the RIKEN Center for Developmental Biology in Kobe, Japan, will start recruiting patients for the world’s first clinical study using induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells. RIKEN’s endorsement, officially announced today, was the final stage in a long series of regulatory steps that included approval from the health ministry.
Ophthalmologist Masayo Takahashi will be using sheets of retinal pigment epithelium cells, derived from iPS cells, to try to halt the progression of age-related macular degeneration. In the wet-type AMD targeted by Takahashi, abnormal vascularization invades and destabilizes the epithelium, which supports the photoreceptors, and causes loss of vision.
IPScs — like embryonic stem cells — carry a pronounced danger of causing tumors with rare exceptions — such as in these eye diseases. But adult stem cells don’t have that difficulty and are currently in thousands of human trials around the world — for heart disease, paralysis, MS, etc. — along with some already approved clinical applications.
Remember when George Bush was “anti science” for claiming that scientists could find ethical alternatives to ESCR? Waddya know: Bush’s faith in ethical science was right.