iPS-derived heart cell transplant conducted in Tokyo

A team of two universities in Japan has conducted a clinical trial using a special type of stem cell to find new treatments for severe heart diseases.

Professor Tabata Minoru of Tokyo's Juntendo University and Professor Sawa Yoshiki of Osaka University told reporters on Monday that the team transplanted sheets of heart muscle cells into a patient with severe heart dysfunction.

The sheets were made from iPS cells, which are created by reprogramming human body cells and can grow into various kinds of tissue.

The surgery was conducted at Juntendo University last month.

Team members say that the patient in his 60s has made satisfactory progress and is expected to leave hospital soon.

Osaka University had developed the sheets and conducted clinical trials on three patients, but this is the first time a trial has been done elsewhere.

The sheets need to be kept at body temperature. They were transported from Osaka to Tokyo in 3-and-a-half hours inside a sealed-tight container.

The professors say they have confirmed the treatment can be provided at medical facilities that do not have the equipment to culture and process heart cell sheets.

The team plans to conduct transplants at more hospitals to verify the safety and efficacy of the treatment.

Team members say once established, their treatment would be effective for gravely ill patients whose only hope for survival is a heart transplant.

Professor Tabata says that as the treatment is simple, he believes skilled surgeons can conduct transplants using it.

Professor Sawa of Osaka University says the latest trial is a big step forward, and he expects the treatment can develop further.