Renowned Japanese scientist Shinya Yamanaka, who achieved a major breakthrough in the emerging area of stem cell research by creating a possible alternative to embryonic stem cells in 2007, expressed confidence here on Friday that drugs would be available soon for diseases for which therapies are yet to be found.
Delivering a lecture on “New Era of Medicine with iPS Cells” organised jointly by Cell Press and TNQ Books and Journals, Prof. Yamanaka said the cells -- “induced pluripotent stem cells [iPS Cells]'' -- developed by him and his team would not only help overcome the ethical issues surrounding use of embryonic stem cells for treatment of diseases like spinal cord injuries, Type I diabetes or macular diseases but also help in development of drugs for conditions like motor neuron disease.
Embryonic stem cell therapy is considered important as it offers immense possibilities for treatment of a wide range of diseases and conditions since the cells proliferaterapidly and are pluripotent or possess the capability to differentiate into any type of cell, said Prof. Yamanaka. But it suffers from a major ethical issue as it involves use of live human embryos, Prof. Yamanaka pointed out. He said if there was a post-transplant rejection, they cannot be used from the patient's own cell.The iPS cells, on the other hand, are created from adult skin cells and do not have these two problems, while at the same time they provide for rapid proliferation and the possibility to differentiate into any type of cell, he said. Prof. Yamanaka and his team generated iPS mouse cells in 2006 and followed up with iPS cells developed from human skin cells in 2007.
Speaking about the potentials of iPS cells, he said studies using the cells for treatment of spinal cord injuries have already shown good results in mouse and monkey specimens and in two to three years scientists would be ready to go in for clinical trials. He, however, admitted that there are several challenges before the new technology. Its safety is yet to be proved completely and the process of deriving patient-specific iPS cells is time-consuming and expensive.
He expressed hope that scientists who are working on itwould overcome the challenges and a new era in medical treatment would emerge soon.
Union Human Resource Development Minister Kapil Sibal, who introduced him, said his Ministry along with the Ministries of Health and Science & Technology would take steps for Indian scientists to collaborate with him.
TNQ Books and Journals Managing Director Mariam Ram and Cell Press Executive Editor Emilie Marcus also spoke.