Keio University conducts surgery to transplant injured patient

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Keio University conducts surgery to transplant injured patient

TOKYO -- Keio University announced on January 14 that it successfully conducted surgery to transplant cells made from induced pluripotent stem iPS cells into a patient with spinal cord injuries in December 2021.

According to the education facility, it was the world's first treatment of a spinal cord injury using iPS cells. The patient is apparently in good condition three weeks after the surgery, and will be checked for a year to confirm the safety of the cell transplant. This is the first case of a clinical research project to receive national approval as a treatment method, and three other patients will also receive cell transplants. It will take at least three to five years to put it into practical use, according to the research team. The Japanese government approved the project in 2019 by the team led by Hideyuki Okano, professor of physiology at Keio University. When the spinal cord is injured due to an accident, the motor function and sensation beyond the injured area becomes impaired. The patient underwent surgery two to four weeks after being injured.

According to those who performed the operation, including Masaya Nakamura, professor at Keio University's orthopedic department, they put the patient face-down and made an incision in the membrane covering the spinal cord from their back to transplant 20 microliters of liquid containing 2 million cells, which are the source of nerve cells, into the injured area. It took about four hours to complete the surgery.

The transplanted cells were iPS cells from another individual produced at Kyoto University and were differentiated at Osaka National Hospital for transplantation.

Regenerative medicine using iPS cells is being clinically applied in the treatment of intractable eye diseases as well as heart and neurological conditions. The cells that had matured after differentiation from iPS cells or almost-matured cells were used for the transplants. In the latest operation, immature cells were used so that they would develop into cells that aid the nerves and nerve function, becoming part of the signal transmission tissue of the body. If too immature, cells derived from iPS cells may become a tumor, so it is important to confirm that they are safe.

An independent monitoring committee will evaluate the safety of the treatment based on the data provided by the patient three months after the operation. If the committee deems it reasonable to continue the project, the team will perform a second and subsequent surgeries.

Okano said at a press conference that it took 15 years since the establishment of human iPS cells to reach this point. I feel ashamed that it took so long.