The Japanese government has approved the first trial of stem cells produced from a patient’s own body.
Stem cells can become any other part of the body – from nerve to bone to skin – and are touted as the future of medicine.
Researchers in Japan will use the cells to attempt to treat a form of blindness – age-related macular degeneration.
The Japanese government has approved the first trial of stem cells produced from a patient’s own body
The announcement was described as “a major step forward” for research in the field.
There are already trials taking place using stem cells taken from embryos. But this is ethically controversial and the cells will not match a patient’s own tissues, so there is a risk of rejection.
Induced pluripotent stem cells, however, are made by coaxing a sample of the patient’s skin to become stem cells, so there should be no risk of rejection.
Japan’s health minister, Norihisa Tamura, has ruled that the cells can now be tested in patients.
The trial will be run by the Riken Center for Developmental Biology and the Institute of Biomedical Research and Innovation Hospital in Kobe.
Initially, six patients will receive transplants of cells to see if the procedure can restore their damaged vision.
In 2012, Prof. Shinya Yamanaka shared the Nobel prize for medicine or physiology for his discovery that adult human tissue could be coaxed back into a stem cell state.
Italian Nobel prize-winning neurologist Rita Levi-Montalcini has died at the age of 103.
Rita Levi-Montalcini lived through anti-semitic discrimination under fascism to become one of Italy’s top scientists and most respected figures.
She won acclaim for her work on cells, which furthered understanding of a range of conditions, including cancer.
In 1986 Rita Levi-Montalcini shared the Nobel Prize for medicine with biochemist Stanley Cohen for research carried out in the US.
Her niece, Piera Levi-Montalcini, told La Stampa newspaper that she had died peacefully “as if sleeping” after lunch.
Her aunt had continued to carry out several hours of research every day until her death, she said.
Italian Nobel prize-winning neurologist Rita Levi-Montalcini has died at the age of 103
Rita Levi-Montalcini was born in 1909 to a wealthy Jewish family in the northern city of Turin, where she studied medicine.
But after she graduated in 1936 the fascist government banned Jews from academic and professional careers, and Rita Levi-Montalcini set up a makeshift laboratory in her bedroom, experimenting on chicken embryos.
“She worked in primitive conditions,” Italian astrophysicist Margherita Hack told Italian TV.
“She is really someone to be admired.”
Rita Levi-Montalcini’s family lived underground in Florence after the Germans invaded Italy in 1943. She later worked as doctor for the allied forces that liberated the city, treating refugees.
From 1947 Rita Levi-Montalcini was based for more than 20 years in the US, at Washington University in Saint Louis, Missouri. There she discovered nerve growth factor, which regulates the growth of cells.
Rita Levi-Montalcini later worked at the National Council of Scientific Research in Rome.
Her research was recognized to have advanced the understanding of conditions including tumors, malformations and senile dementia.
In 2001 Rita Levi-Montalcini was nominated to the Italian upper house of parliament as a senator for life, an honor bestowed on some of Italy’s most distinguished public figures.
She was an ambassador for the Rome-based UN Food and Agriculture Organization, and founded the Levi-Montalcini Foundation, which carries out charity work in Africa.
Rita Levi-Montalcini never married, saying her life had been “enriched by excellent human relations, work and interests”.
In a 2009 interview she said: “At 100, I have a mind that is superior – thanks to experience – than when I was 20.”
Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti praised Rita Levi-Montalcini’s “charismatic and tenacious” character and her lifelong battle to “defend the battles in which she believed”.
John Gurdon from the UK and Shinya Yamanaka from Japan, two pioneers of stem cell research, have shared the Nobel Prize for medicine or physiology.
John Gurdon and Shinya Yamanaka were awarded the prize for transforming specialized cells into stem cells, which can become any other type of cell in the body.
Prof. John Gurdon used a gut sample to clone frogs and Prof. Shinya Yamanaka altered genes to reprogramme cells.
The Nobel committee said they had “revolutionized” science.
Prof. John Gurdon used a gut sample to clone frogs and Prof. Shinya Yamanaka altered genes to reprogramme cells
In 1962, John Gurdon took the genetic information from a cell in the intestines of a frog and placed it inside a frog egg, which developed into a normal tadpole.
Shinya Yamanaka showed that specialized mouse cells could be reprogrammed to become stem cells by introducing four genes. The resulting stem cells could then be converted to other types of cell.
The Nobel committee said the discovery had “revolutionized our understanding of how cells and organisms develop”.