It has been a big week in very different ways for the stem cell field related to induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells.
First, we had the Nobel Prize deservedly going to stem cell hero, Shinya Yamanaka. Great news! Congratulations to Dr. Yamanaka.
Unfortunately, now, we have a puzzling story that iPS cells have been reported in a poster at a New York stem cell meeting to have been transplanted into human patients. If accurate, this would be years earlier than anyone anticipated. If inaccurate, this of course is very troubling. Bad news either way.
The poster was presented by Dr. Hisashi Moriguchi.
Dr. Moriguchi is a Japanese scientist who spent some time at Harvard (apparently ending in 2000) and has published some papers on stem cells over the years. Here is his Pubmed search results.
The affiliations listed on Moriguchi’s first author Scientific Reports 2012 article on direct reprogramming include (1) the Dept. of Plastic & Reconstructive Surgery, School of Medicine, The University of Tokyo and (2) Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School.
In that Scientific Reports paper, in the methods section it states:
The study was approved by the Institutional Review Boards of our institutions (Harvard Medical School, the University of Tokyo, Tokyo Medical and Dental University), and informed written consent was obtained from all of the patients.
Given that Harvard says unequivocally that the reported iPS cell transplants on Moriguchi’s poster did not receive Harvard IRB approval, a logical question is whether the studies in this 2012 published paper received or did not receive Harvard IRB approval.
Senior Communications Officer B.D. Cohen of Harvard also commented:
“Hisashi Moriguchi was a visiting fellow at Massachusetts General Hospital from 1999-2000, and has not been associated with MGH or Harvard since that time. No clinical trials related to Dr. Moriguchi’s work have been approved by institutional review boards at either Harvard University or MGH.”
Yet, on a second 2012 Scientific Reports paper, Moriguchi also made the same statement about getting Harvard IRB approval.
What the heck is going on?