Kyoto University got the health ministry go-ahead Sept. 21 to begin the world's first clinical study to infuse blood platelets made from induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells into a patient suffering from aplastic anemia, an intractable disease.

The university said it plans to transfuse the platelets, which work to stop bleeding, into the patient within a year as the individual is unable to produce sufficient blood cells.

Hospitals rely on blood donors for supplies of blood, such as platelet products. But blood donors are dwindling due to the declining birthrate and aging population, researchers said.

Producing blood products from iPS cells would help ensure a stable supply, researchers added.

Aplastic anemia is very difficult to treat because patients with the disease are unable to produce white blood cells and platelets in sufficient quantities due to immunity and other problems.

It is estimated that 10,000 people across Japan suffer from the disease.

Koji Eto, a professor of hematology at Kyoto University, is a member of the team that will oversee the clinical test.

Team members said the individual chosen for the treatment had shown a strong rejection reaction to blood cells from donors. The team has no plans at present to seek more patients for the clinical study.

After the team created platelets from iPS cells, the patient will be infused three times during a roughly six-month period. Researchers will spend a year confirming the effectiveness and safety of the treatment.

“This method has the potential to be used widely as there are other diseases in which patients are unable to create platelets,” said Shinji Nakao, a professor of hematology at Kanazawa University.

Nakao also noted that medical organizations sometimes seek blood donors whose immune system is the same as patients unable to produce platelets.

“The burden on those donors will be reduced by this new method. In that respect, it will have huge significance,” he said.

Regenerative medicine that uses iPS cells started in 2014 with the transplant of retinal tissue to a patient suffering from an intractable eye disease.

Plans also began making headway this year for iPS treatment of patients who suffer from heart failure and Parkinson’s disease. Similar treatment for cornea diseases and damaged spinal cords are also in the cards.