The winner of the 2012 Nobel Prize in Medicine invited to the Sciences Academy: IPS cells, « a decisive advance », which overcome the barriers set by human embryonic stem cells.
Pr. Shinya Yamanaka opened the symposium of the Academy of Sciences dedicated to tissue regeneration to which the Jérôme Lejeune Foundation attended. The Foundation is the father of cellular reprogramming (IPS) which earned it the 2012 Prize in Medicine. Its genius, Nicole le Douarin, Honorary Perpetual Secretary of the Academy of Sciences, reminded everyone in her introduction that he had successfully developed a revolutionary method which overcomes the ethical and technical deadlocks researchers found themselves in when dealing with embryonic stem cells.
His presence, planned before she was awarded the 2012 Nobel Prize in Medicine, has taken on a whole new meaning since the whole world has become aware of the advance this discovery means for science and how it is being and could be used for health. It is even more interesting to hear Pr. Yamanaka in Paris as France took such a long time to understand the importance of her work on animal IPS cells, published in 2006, and on Human IPS cells, published in 2007.
Neither complementary nor rival, IPS cells have simply overtaken embryonic stem cells.
After 20 years of research throughout the world and derogations granted since 2004 in France by the biomedical agency, embryonic research has not kept the spectacular promises it had announced regarding therapeutic applications.
On the contrary, though human IPS cells only exist since 2007, Pr. Yamanaka presented convincing results (for pathology modelling and molecule screening), and promising perspectives (for cellular therapy) these cells can offer without having to use embryos.* Ms Le Douarin underlined that IPS cells are far closer to succeeding than embryonic stem cells are. The first application of this theory, launched in 2013 during a clinical trial, is for cellular therapy in AMD treatment. This will be followed by tests on Parkinson’s disease, spinal cords injuries and blood pathologies.
It has to be reminded that the Japanese government fully understood the importance of the discovery and supported Pr. Yamanaka as soon as 2009 by helping her in her work with a 40 million euro contribution. Since then, the winner of the Prize in Medicine had settled in Kyoto with her team which includes over 200 researchers exclusively devoted to IPS cells research.
It is crucial for French research that the political leaders of our country become aware of the importance of this discovery. The next time politic opinion will be checked out will be on the 13th of December with the return of the debate dealing with embryonic research authorisation. Will France, regressing instead of progressing, decide to liberalize research? That would open the door to funding which, on the one hand, will lack in IPS cells research and, on the other hand, will satisfy the pharmaceutical industries. If, despite evidence, France refuses to choose and wants everything, it will not get anything at all.