September 22, 2020

The Niche

Knoepfler lab stem cell blog

Moriguchi talks about himself & Yamanaka in new article that now invokes MIT along with Harvard in supposed iPS cell transplants in humans

Did Dr. Hisashi Moriguchi really transplant iPS cells into human patients?

The story has the stem cell field abuzz.

My mind keeps changing on this one as earlier today I thought the whole thing maybe was a bunch of fluff, but now there is yet another new article (see headline below) in the Daily Yomiuri providing more details and claiming that the transplants did indeed take place. The reporter is listed as Michinobu Yanagisawa.

Moriguchi iPSThe article, posted as from New York, quotes Moriguchi in an apparent in-person interview that “sometimes we have to push on doctors for the benefit of patients”.

Moriguchi goes on to say that the research had a budget of 150 million yen (almost $2 million USD  ) raised from venture capitalists and:

“I don’t think we could’ve conducted the transplants in Japan,” he said. “In Japan, we have to achieve tangible results because we’re using taxpayers’ money. But investors are more willing to take risks here.”

This story is getting more interesting by the hour.

The newspaper article still calls Moriguchi a “visiting lecturer at Harvard University” even though he apparently has not had any affiliation with Harvard in a dozen years according to the University itself.

According to the article the study involved not just Harvard but also MIT:

About five graduate students studying mechanical engineering at Harvard University and Massachusetts Institute of Technology took part in the research, providing supercooling technology needed for the proliferation of cardiac muscle cells and helping raise funds for research on the transplants.

Patients receiving transplants included a 34- and 35-year-old women and a 43-year-old man, and, strikingly, more transplants are going to be completed this year.

What the heck?

Moriguchi goes on to talk about himself in the same sentence as Yamanaka:

He said public trust in iPS cells “has risen” with the winning of this year’s Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine by Kyoto University Prof. Shinya Yamanaka. “Both Professor Yamanaka and I want to save patients’ lives. Now is the time we need concerted support from the public and private sectors. This will also create jobs for young people and help revitalize Japan.”

So did these transplants really happen? I don’t know, but this strange story continues to surprise. Where will it lead? Why would supercooling be helpful in culturing cells?