On February 18, 2019, The Asahi Shimbun reported, “Ministry [of Health, Labor and Welfare in Japan] OKs 1st iPS [induced pluripotent stem] cell therapy for spinal cord injuries.” This announcement disseminated at a press conference has been viewed as an exciting clinical trial on the use of stem cells to treat spinal cord injury. However, caution is warranted here, for at least three reasons: the uncertainty of the stem cell type to be used in their clinical trial, the safety of transplanting stem cells into humans, and the responsibility of scientists and the press to communicate clearly the benefits and risks of the stem cell treatments, especially to desperate patients who would seek such unproven treatments.
Thus, the question remains whether their approach—based on an inducible suicide gene introduced to kill the cells in case of abnormal growth—will be used in these clinical trials, and the expected safety profiles of the cells used in their studies remains unclear. Even small tumors in the spinal canal can be particularly dangerous considering there is little room for these cells to grow and they can compress the cord causing paralysis.
Read full, original post: Opinion: Ethical Challenges in Using iPS Cells to Treat Paralysis