From Bio Journal - November 2008

A plan to use human ES cells in chemical substance toxicity experiment

At the MEXT specialist panel meeting held on 25 September 2008, a new application from the National Institute for Environmental Studies for the use of human ES (embryonic stem) cells was approved (See BJ September 2008). The purpose of the program is to investigate the effects of dioxin, PCB (polychlorinated biphenyls) thalidomide and other harmful chemical substances when a foetus is exposed to them and develop preventative measures for illnesses. These substances will be applied to ES cells, which are then differentiated to produce nerve cells in which abnormalities are investigated. The ES cells are due to be obtained from the Kyoto University Institute for Frontier Medical Sciences.

Because up to now it has been difficult to obtain human ES cells, this kind of research has been carried out through animal experiments, the results then being used to infer the probable effect on the human body. However, the situation has changed since it became possible to produce human ES cells through repeated propagation after having removed them from the fertilized ovum. Thus, it has now become possible to obtain large numbers of human cells for experimental purposes by use of human ES cells. It is though that this kind of research using human ES cells will in future become increasingly common for drug toxicity testing.

Guideline revisions towards clinical applications of pluripotent cells

MHLW has begun moves to revise the clinical guidelines for human stem cells. The establishment of a specialist panel to review the guidelines was officially approved at a meeting of the science and technology panel of the Health Sciences Council, held on 6 October 2008. The most important focus of the revision will be the handling of human ES cells and other so-called 'pluripotent cells' in clinical applications (See BJ September 2008). When the guidelines were drawn up two years ago, the insertion of these into the guidelines was postponed due to research still being at the basic stage. Last year, Kyoto University Professor YAMANAKA Shinya and his team produced the iPS cell (induced pluripotent stem cell), and the circumstances surrounding pluripotent cells in Japan have suddenly become extremely active. As a consequence, it appears that MHLW has decided to smooth the path to clinical applications in one fell swoop in order to vie with the USA and other countries.

Data on GM crops, GM animals uploaded

MAFF has updated the Internet data on approved GM crops and animals in accordance with the Cartahena laws. The data (in Japanese) can be accessed as follows:
GM crop list:
GM animal list:

GM crop approvals for August and October 2008

GM crops approved for open field cultivation (Type 1 usage)
(Biodiversity Impact Assessment Investigative Commission)
NameApproval Date*
MaizeInsect pest resistanceSyngenta Seeds Ltd.MIR162, OECD UI: SYN-IR162-421 August 2008
CottonInsect pest resistanceSyngenta Seeds Ltd.COT102, OECD UI: SYN-IR102-721 August 2008
CarnationViolet-blue colourSuntory Ltd.OECD UI: FLO-40689-602 October 2008
* Technically, approval is granted after public comments have been accepted.

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