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Japan approves test of iPS cells for treating spinal injuries

TOKYO (Reuters) – Japanese scientists will test the use of human-induced pluripotent stem cells (iPS) to treat spinal cord injuries, a health ministry panel that approved the research project said on Monday.

The research team from Tokyo’s Keio University planned to inject about two million iPS cells into the damaged areas of an individual patient and review the results over the course of a year, according to the plan approved by the health ministry.

So-called iPS cells are made by removing mature cells from an individual – often from the skin – and reprogramming them to behave like embryonic stem cells.

Last year, clinical trials began in Japan on using reprogrammed stem cells in a treatment for Parkinson’s disease.

The health ministry panel has already given a greenlight to use iPS cells for treating patients with rare eye disease or blood disease.

The Keio University team headed by professors Hideyuki Okano and Masaya Nakamura will seek four patients, aged 18 or older, who have lost mobility and sensory functions due to a spinal cord injury sustained two to four weeks earlier.

The professors were not immediately available for comment.

The Japan Spinal Cord Foundation estimates more than 100,000 people have spinal cord injuries in the country.

Reporting by Takashi Umekawa; editing by Darren Schuettler

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