Do Nobel Prizes lead to cures?

One laureate is worried that regulatory red tape could delay getting treatments based on the winning work to the patients who need them.

Shortly after winning the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, John Gurdon criticized the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for placing “immense conditions on approval,” at a press conference in London.

Gurdon, of the Gurdon Institute in the U.K., shares the prize with Shinya Yamanaka of Kyoto University for their work on reprogramming cells to an embryonic-like state.

People are describing the feat as “cell rewind” and “time machine”.

Basically, reprogrammed cells regain ‘pluripotency,’ or the potential to differentiate into many cell types. Researchers hope that cells created in this way will eventually be used in regenerative medicine, providing replacement tissue for damaged or diseased organs, Nature News explains.

Translating their discoveries into regenerative therapies will take time. “That’s why it is so important to support basic science,” Gurdon says. “It often happens that therapeutic benefit comes quite a long time after the initial discovery.”

He’s worried that regulatory red tape could delay treatments based on the work. His comments to reporters in London point to an emerging bone of contention: whether caution from regulators may delay or prevent therapies based on reprogrammed cells from reaching patients, New Scientist reports.

"I think patients would be happy to take the risk of using their own cells given the choice," Gurdon says. Some biologists are anxious about the backlash that could result if safety problems emerged in a clinical trial.

Nevertheless, the first clinical trial involving cells derived from ‘induced pluripotent stem cells’ could begin next year. Researchers at the RIKEN Center for Developmental Biology plan to use those cells to grow retinal pigment epithelium to treat a form a blindness called age-related macular degeneration in humans.

[Via New Scientist]

Image: 2012 The Nobel Committee for Physiology or Medicine

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

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