In the seven years since their discovery, induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells have transformed basic research and won a Nobel prize. Now, a Japanese study is about to test the medical potential of these cells for the first time. Made by reprogramming adult cells into an embryo-like state that can form any cell type in the body, the cells will be transplanted into patients who have a debilitating eye disease.
Masayo Takahashi, an ophthalmologist at the RIKEN Center for Developmental Biology in Kobe, Japan, plans to submit her application for the study to the Japanese health ministry next month, and could be recruiting patients as early as September. Stem-cell researchers around the world hope that if the trial goes forward, it will allay some of the safety concerns over medical use of the cells. And the Japanese government hopes that its efforts to speed iPS cells to the clinic by generously funding such work will be vindicated (see Nature 493, 465; 2013)….