According to the Japan Times, Kyoto University’s Jun Takahashi and his team have plans to launch a clinical study for Parkinson’ disease patients that will utilize cells derived from induced pluripotent stem cells made from the patient’s own cells.
In an interview with Takahashi, the Japan Times reported on Wednesday of this week that he hopes to develop the induced Pluripotent Stem Cell (iPSCs) treatment as soon as possible so that Kyoto University Hospital can provide this treatment by fiscal year 2018 as a designated advanced medical technique that can be used in combination with other conventional treatments and medicines already covered by various insurance policies. Takahashi also expressed his hope that by fiscal year 2023, public health insurance will pay for his treatment.
For this clinical study, Parkinson’s disease patients whose conditions have progressed to the point where their medications are no longer effective will be the primary targeted group. “It will take a long time” to establish an effective treatment for the progressive disorder, which is incurable at present, Takahashi said, stressing the importance of maintaining a positive attitude toward development and not losing hope.
Parkinson’s disease causes the nerve cells in the brain that utilize the neurotransmitter dopamine to die off. The death of these dopaminergic neurons adversely affects voluntary muscle movement.
The design of this clinical study will include the production of iPSCs from adult cells collected from participating patients. These stem cells will be differentiated into neural stem cells that make dopaminergic neurons. These dopaminergic neuron precursor cells will be transplanted back into the midbrains of the donors before they develop into nerve cells, according to Takahashi. This way, all injected cells will still have the capacity to divide and migrate once implanted into the brain, but they will still have the capacity to form dopaminergic neurons.
Takahashi’s team will also seek to develop a method for producing a nerve cell drug created from cells taken out of healthy people, to ease the financial burden on patients, he said, since the derivation of iPSCs remains prohibitively expensive.
Takahashi also said he aims to being clinical trials by March 2019.