Nobel Winner’s Stem Cells to Be Tested in Eye Malady in 2013
Stem cells derived from a mouse’s skin won Shinya Yamanaka the Nobel Prize. Now researchers in Japan are seeking to use his pioneering technology for an even greater prize: restoring sight.
Scientists at the Riken Center for Developmental Biology in Kobe plan to use so-called induced pluripotent stem cells in a trial among patients with macular degeneration, a disease in which the retina becomes damaged, resulting in loss of vision, Yamanaka told reporters in San Francisco.
Companies including Pfizer Inc. (PFE) are already planning trials of stem cells derived from human embryos. The Japanese study will be the first to use a technology that mimics the power of embryonic cells while avoiding the ethical controversy that accompanies them.
“The work in that area looks very encouraging,” John B. Gurdon, 79, a professor at the University of Cambridge who shared the Nobel with Yamanaka, said in an interview in London.
Yamanaka and Gurdon shared the 8 million Swedish kronor ($1.2 million) award for experiments 50 years apart that showed that mature cells retain in latent form all the DNA they had as immature stem cells, and that they can be returned to that potent state, offering the potential for a new generation of therapies against hard-to-treat diseases such as macular degeneration.