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New Stem Cell Technology to Improve Drug Safety

TOKYO, April 22 /PRNewswire-Asia/ -- Drug side effects are a major problem for the drug industry. Even very rare events, if serious enough, can warrant drug withdrawal. Unfortunately, these problems often emerge only after a drug has been used by thousands or even millions of patients.

Identifying drugs that can trigger heart attacks before they reach the clinic is a major focus of ReproCELL. Current cardiotoxicity tests, especially at early stages of drug development, tend to focus on one aspect of heart cell function -- the hERG ion channel. But there are a whole range of other ion channels, as well as other possible issues, which hERG tests miss. ReproCELL has developed the QTempo assay to comprehensively screen cardiac ion channels and other factors to significantly reduce the chances of a cardiotoxic drug reaching the clinic.

The QTempo test uses beating heart cells grown in a dish from stem cells. Similar to an ECG, these cells are attached to electrodes to measure their electrical activity, which is monitored as experimental drugs are added. Until recently, ethical issues surrounding human embryonic stem cells, had restricted QTempo to monkey heart cells. Now, under a license agreement between ReproCELL and iPS Academia, a human version of this new test is available. This is the first ever commercial test using iPS technology.

ReproCELL's CEO, Chikafumi Yokoyama, commented "Drug companies usually prefer to see in-vitro data from human cells. Basing the QTempo assay around human heart cells makes the test more clinically relevant. Not only will the improved test contribute to patient safety, it will help reduce the huge amounts of effort drug companies waste on developing drugs that are later withdrawn".

iPS Academia, KYOTO, JAPAN, was established to license iPS technology developed in the Kyoto lab of Shinya Yamanaka. The iPS (induced Pluripotent stem cell) technology is a revolutionary new way of making embryonic-like stem cells from normal adult tissue, typically skin cells.

ReproCELL, TOKYO, JAPAN, offers stem cell-focused products and services to researchers and health professionals. ReproCELL products are used in many of the world's leading stem cell labs and were used in the development of the world's first human iPS cells. ReproCELL has applied its stem cell expertise to develop pre-clinical and clinical diagnostic tests to improve the development of drugs and monitoring of patients.

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