Japanese scientists pioneer creation of regulatory T cells from iPS cells

Japanese researchers have successfully produced regulatory T cells from human iPS cells, marking a significant breakthrough in immunotherapy.

A Japanese research group has made a groundbreaking advancement in immunotherapy by successfully producing regulatory T cells (Tregs) from human induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells. This landmark achievement, announced in June 2024, represents a significant step forward in the development of new treatments for autoimmune diseases and transplant rejection.

Regulatory T cells play a critical role in maintaining immune system balance by suppressing excessive immune responses that can lead to autoimmune disorders or damage to transplanted tissues. Traditionally, obtaining a sufficient number of functional Tregs for therapeutic purposes has been challenging due to their scarcity and the complexity of their isolation from the human body.

The research group, led by Dr. Hiromitsu Nakauchi at Stanford University and the University of Tokyo, utilised advanced techniques to reprogram human somatic cells into iPS cells and subsequently differentiate them into Tregs. This process not only provides a virtually unlimited supply of these critical immune cells but also ensures that they retain their regulatory functions.

The successful production of Tregs from iPS cells opens up new avenues for research and clinical applications. It has the potential to revolutionise treatments for a wide range of autoimmune diseases, including type 1 diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, and multiple sclerosis, where overactive immune responses damage the body’s tissues. Additionally, these cells could be used to prevent transplant rejection by modulating the recipient’s immune response to accept the donor organ more readily.

This breakthrough also addresses some of the major limitations in current Treg therapy, such as the limited availability of cells and the risk of contamination or loss of function during expansion and manipulation. By generating Tregs from iPS cells, researchers can produce large quantities of patient-specific cells, potentially reducing the risk of immune rejection and improving the efficacy of treatments.