Photo/IllutrationThe Asahi Shimbun

  • Photo/Illustraion

SUITA, Osaka Prefecture--A team of physicians here is planning to start the world’s first clinical study based on induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells to treat heart failure.

Using sheets of cardiac muscle cells created from iPS cells, Yoshiki Sawa, a cardiovascular surgery professor at Osaka University, and his colleagues have been working to cure heart failure.

The team said on July 21 that it submitted its clinical research plan to the university’s regenerative medicine screening committee. If the plan is approved by the committee and other processes go smoothly, the study will begin in the first half of 2018.

Tens of thousands of individuals are estimated to be suffering from severe heart failure in Japan.

“We have been making efforts to help patients with severe heart failure as early as possible,” Sawa said at a recent news conference. “We have finally reached the point when we can soon start full-scale research.”

Under the plan, the study will target ischemic cardiomyopathy patients whose cardiac muscles have suffered severe damage from the blockage of blood vessels and the subsequent stopping of blood supply to cardiac muscles.

Although the team has already put to practical use a technique to transplant cell sheets created from muscles of patients’ thighs into their hearts, the method has proved ineffective in dealing with serious conditions.

To improve therapeutic effects of treatment, the team will develop cardiac muscle cell sheets from iPS cells and transplant them into the hearts of three patients aged between 18 and 75 in the planned clinical study.

The doctors will monitor the subjects for an entire year for any adverse effects and how their hearts are functioning.

They will procure iPS cells for the study from Kyoto University’s Center for iPS Cell Research and Application.

After its plan is approved by the university committee, the team will submit the proposal to the health minister for discussion by a health ministry panel.

The team is also planning to conduct another doctor-led clinical trial with an eye to commercializing its cardiac muscle sheets as early as possible.

In a separate effort, a team of scientists from the Riken research institute and other institutions are researching the creation of retina tissue from iPS cells and transplanting it into patients suffering from age-related macular degeneration, an intractable eye disease.