Stem cell procurement plan gets ministry OK

A health ministry panel will allow cord blood banks to provide raw material to create induced pluripotent stem cells for regenerative medicine, a move that would boost the establishment of an “iPS Stock” system proposed by Kyoto University professor Shinya Yamanaka.

Only cord blood not used in leukemia treatment would be provided to the iPS Stock for use in creating iPS cells, said the members of the panel under the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare.

The details of conditions for the provision will be discussed by eight banks storing cord blood and Kyoto University, the members said.

In a related move, Yamanaka said Tuesday he aims to team up with the Japanese Red Cross Society in the hope that by allowing scientists to tap into the society’s data on human leukocyte antigen types, which can be compared with blood types for cells, the iPS Stock would be able to promptly procure the types of cells unlikely to be rejected by transplant recipients.

Establishing the iPS Stock would help physicians to shorten the time and reduce the costs associated with procuring cells for transplant treatment. But as patients would be receiving other people’s cells, it is necessary to work on steps to reduce rejection.

Because only 1 in 1,000 has HLA types unlikely to cause rejection, collecting several dozen of the rare types would enable physicians to cover around 80 percent of the Japanese population.

A likely challenge, however, is to create a new system to secure donors’ consent regarding the use of the banks, originally intended for the treatment of diseases such as leukemia, for the iPS Stock.

An advantage of using the banks is that blood and bone marrow stored by the banks run by the Red Cross and other organizations have had their HLA types checked prior to registration, making it easier for medical personnel to find the desired blood with rare properties.

This compares with soliciting volunteers to provide blood, which entails checking around 200,000 samples for the desired types, at enormous cost.

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Stem cell procurement plan gets ministry OK