Next Generation Research Incubator



――New cell therapies, drugs and disease insights should flow from a coodinated approach to stem cell research.

Research Keywords: Hematopoietic Stem Cells, iPS Cells, Platelets

©️Akiko Sato

Stem cells have the remarkable capacity to both self-renew and give rise to many types of more specialized cells in the body, which explains their great therapeutic potential in regenerative medicine. But that is not the only reason stem cells have become such a hotbed of scientific inquiry — these cellular transformers are also an invaluable research tool for probing the disease mechanisms that underpin cancer, aging and a host of other health problems.

At the Integrated Research Center on Regenerative Systems and Diseases, Chiba University scientists are advancing both these avenues of stem cell research. Some researchers are focused on developing new kinds of therapies based on stem cells, while others are gaining important insights into disease biology. However, they all share the common goal of improving the lives of patients using stem cells as their tool.

The center, which opened in 2016, is divided into three main research groups. The first is dedicated to using stem cells found in the blood and brain to better understand disease and normal development; the second focuses on reprogramming tissue biopsies taken from patients to make disease-specific stem cells for drug screening; and the third is developing stem cell therapies for treating diabetes, heart disease and other disorders.

Center director, Atsushi Iwama, says their work covers a wide spectrum, from basic to clinical research. Yet despite different researchers adopting different approaches, they all work in a collaborative manner, holding regular group meetings and retreats where new data are discussed and new alliances forged.

Collaborative partnerships around the world

The Integrated Research Center is also looking further afield to create a cross-disciplinary research network that spans the globe. It has already formed partnerships with other leading stem cell research groups in Japan, Singapore and the United States, and it hopes to build more international connections in the future.

One of those partnerships is with Kyoto University’s Center for iPS Cell Research and Application, where Koji Eto has worked for years developing a protocol for making platelets from reprogrammed stem cells. Last year, Chiba University recruited Eto to join its new center. And while Eto will maintain a lab in Kyoto, where he plans to run the first human trial of platelets derived from stem cells, he hopes to expand the study to include patients needing transfusions at Chiba University Hospital.

Other notable members of the Integrated Research Center include Koutaro Yokote, a leading expert on a form of progeria known as Werner syndrome, and Chiaki Nakaseko, a world leader on a rare plasma cell disorder called POEMS syndrome. Yokote is making stem cells from patients with Werner syndrome to better understand the disease and find new drugs, while Nakaseko is focused on developing new kinds of transplantation therapies from stem cells derived from bone marrow.

These and many other world-renowned investigators make the new Chiba center an ideal place to work and train the next generation of scientists. “We hope to recruit many young people interested in stem cell research and clinical translation,” Iwama says.


Principal Investigator
Name Title, Affiliation Research Themes
IWAMA Atsushi Professor, Graduate School of Medicine Stem Cell Biology
Name Title, Affiliation Research Themes
ETO Koji Professor, Graduate School of Medicine Stem Cell Biology
MATSUMIYA Goro Professor, Graduate School of Medicine Cardiovascular Surgery
YOKOTE Koutaro Professor, Graduate School of Medicine Internal Medicine
MIKI Takashi Professor, Graduate School of Medicine Diabetes Disease
NAKASEKO Chiaki Specially Appointed Professor, Graduate School of Medicine Blood in the Science, Hematopoietic Stem Cell Transplantation
TANAKA Tomoaki Professor, Graduate School of Medicine Endocrinology, Tumor Biology
TAKAYAMA Naoya Associate Professor, Graduate School of Medicine Stem Cell Biology
FURIHATA Tomomi Associate Professor, Graduate School of Medicine Pharmacokinetics, Pharmacology, Toxicology

Research report(2016〜2018)

Goals of stem cell research are not only the promotion of regenerative medicine, but also the understanding of the pathophysiology of diseases such as cancers and aging. The concept of stem cell system has been adopted in cancer research (ex. cancer stem cells). Stem cells are also involved in tumorigenesis as the first cells to acquire gene mutations in many cancers. Disease-specific iPS cells are also beneficial for developing new treatment and screening therapeutic agents. Building on this progress in stem cell research, our research group aims to promote regenerative medicine and disease research using the group's own research approaches in stem cell biology and regenerative medicine and to bring about the "formation of integrated research center on regenerative systems and diseases" on a global scale.

Research Group 1 (tissue stem cells and disease research), Research Group 2 (organ regeneration and cell therapy research), and Research Group 3 (disease-specific iPS cells and disease research) have independently promoted regenerative medicine and disease research from their respective vantage points of tissue stem cells, organ regeneration, and disease-specific iPS cells. At the same time, the three groups shared their findings and provided feedback on the results of joint research, promoting research in this disciplinary field as a whole. Among the collaborative projects, we particularly strengthened studies using the disease-specific iPS cells. Our project on progeria using iPS cells generated from Werner syndrome samples was funded by AMED. We also focused on the cancer stem cell study of hematopoietic malignancies such as Myelodysplastic syndrome and performed epigenome analysis of MDS stem cells. This study was also funded by AMED. Our members are currently involved in 6 clinical trials.

We also tried to enhance and expand research in this disciplinary field through collaboration among the Chiba University Center for Regenerative Therapeutics, the laboratories of Chiba University Graduate School of Medical and Pharmaceutical Sciences, and the clinical departments, the Center for Advanced Medicine, and the Clinical Research Center of Chiba University Hospital.

By pushing forward our approaches and collaborative studies, we believe that we can establish a unique integrated research center on regenerative systems and diseases on a global scale.