From Bio Journal - June 2016

Mass spread of GM plants at Nara Institute of Science and Technology

On 9 May 2016, students discovered Arabidopsis thaliana of the brassica family growing on the campus of the Nara Institute of Science and Technology. Around 10 labs were conducting trial cultivation of Aradopsis in hothouses in the university. An investigation showed that 289 of the plants were GM Aradopsis. (Tokyo Shimbun, 2016/5/10)

Japan also gives approval for manipulation of fertilized ova genes

On 22 April 2016, the Cabinet Office special panel on bioethics, comprising of specialists in the field, finalized a report that approves the gene manipulation of fertilized ova for basic research only. Last year, researchers at Chinafs Zhongshan University manipulated the genes of of human fertilized ova using genome editing technology, causing controversy when their paper was refused by science journals. Triggered by these events, scientists from 20 countries gathered for an international conference last December. The conclusion was that gene manipulation of fertilized ova was approved provided it was used only for basic research, bringing about consideration of the matter in Japan also. (See last paragraph of Genome editing in BJ January 2016)

Approval for clinical studies on xenotransplantation

On 10 April 2016, the MHLW research team on securing safety in the implementation of clinical studies on xenotransplantation, which has effectively thus far failed to approve xenotransplantation, has now approved it for pig pancreatic islets (the islets of Langerhans) only, and a revised draft of the Guidelines on Communicable Disease Issues for Public Sanitation in Association with the Implementation of Xenotransplantation will now go to the Health Science Council for approval.

The aim of the xenotransplantation is cell transplantation in patients with type 1 diabetes mellitus. These patients have to receive insulin injections throughout their lives, but the transplant would alleviate this burden. In xenotransplantation, in contrast to transplantation between humans, there are a number of serious issues, such as rejection symptoms immediately following the transplant. There is also the danger that virus genes inherent in the pig DNA will enter the human environment. With regard to the former, it is said that this can be overcome though the use of technology. For the latter, it is said that there is no fear of this occurring.

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(English Index)