From Bio Journal - November 2018

MHLW and MEXT approve genome editing of human fertilized ova

On 28 September 2018, an MHLW and MEXT held a joint conference of knowledgeable persons (the specialist panel on research into assisted reproductive technology that uses genome editing technology, etc. on human fertilized embryos, Science and Technology Subcommittee of the Health Sciences Council of MHLW and the specialist panel on research using genome editing technology, etc. on fertilized embryos, Bioethics and Safety Subcommittee of the Council for Science and Technology of MEXT). Discussed at the conference was whether to ban or approve application of genome editing technology, etc. to human fertilized ova, or how far to approve such application. A policy proposal was finalized at this, the fourth, conference, the proposal approving the application to human fertilized ova provided it was limited to research. Thus genetic manipulation of human fertilized ova was approved, something which had never been recognized before. It may be said that now the ban has been lifted, the way forward to a possible total lifting of the ban in the future has been opened up.

The goal is assisted reproductive technology and the ova handled will be limited to surplus embryos from fertility treatments. Returning these inside the bodies of humans or animals will be banned. Research institutes will set up ethics committees to screen research activities, while the government will also establish an ethics committee to provide checks. The policy proposal states that basically research data will be publicly disclosed.

Ooblast created from human iPS cell

An ooblast, the cell that is the primordial cell from which the ovum derives, has been created from an iPS cell (induced pluripotent stem cell), which can differentiate into various kinds of human organs and tissues. The ooblast was created by a research team under Professor Michinori Saito of Kyoto University and a report published in the online journal Science on 20 September 2018. Thus far, the research team has produced an ovum from a mouse iPS cell, fertilized it and brought it to birth in the next generation, but this is the first time that the primordial cell of a human ovum has been produced. (Tokyo Newspaper 2018/9)

Consumer Affairs Agency holds explanatory meeting for GM food labelling changes

The Consumer Affairs Agency (CAA), in step with proposed changes in GM food labelling, has held explanatory meetings starting in Tokyo and moving on to Sendai, Osaka, Fukuoka, Sapporo, Okayama and Nagoya. CAA has also solicited opinions from the general public at the same time. The current proposed changes would lower the detection limit value (to almost zero) at which labels such as "Non-GM" or "GM soybeans not used" can be affixed to food packaging. There is strong opposition to this proposal from not only consumers but also the soybean industry, general trading companies and others.

Kaneki increases production of raw materials for biodegradable plastic

The chemicals maker Kaneki has announced that in August this year it raised the production capacity of its biodegradable plastic raw material "Kaneki Biodegradable Polymer PHBH" from 1,000 tons to 5,000 tons per year, and then in October raised the capacity further, to 20,000 tons per year. Due to increasing anxiety over pollution from microplastics, the world demand for biodegradable plastics is expected to exceed an annual million tons in 2022. (Kaneki 2018/10/15)

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(English Index)