The huge hype and hoopla about stem cell therapy and regenerative medicine is not all exaggeration. Stem cells present with infinite possibilities in healthcare but it will take time and more research for experimental procedures to turn into standard care in treating incurable diseases and disorders.
- Dr. Alok Srivastava on blood stem cell transplantation in India
- Dr. Alok and Dr. Srinivasan - Q&A with audience
- Dr. Srinivasan, Chairman Jeevan stem cell bank
- Dr. Saranya, Medical Director, Jeevan stem cell bank
Dr. Alok Srivastava Head, Department of Hematology and Stem Cell Research, CMC Vellore, Chairman, National Apex Committee for Stem Cell Research and Therapy delivering the Jeevan oration at Chennai on Hematopoietic or Blood Stem Cell Transplantation: It's Potential and Challenges in India, traced the evolution of stem cell research in the world, discussed currently available stem cell therapy world over and the challenges in regenerative medicine in the Indian context.
AdvertisementPromise of stem cell research
Stem cells are master cells present in different parts of the body and can be used to replace dysfunctional, diseased or dead tissues in our body. Stem cell therapy is not a proven therapy for just about anything in the world. The therapeutic material here is not something that, when prescribed, can come from a central manufacturer, such as pharmaceutical companies for local use. Media reports sometimes mislead the public into believing that stem cell therapy for heart attack, stroke, Alzheimer's disease and traumatic paraplegia is just round the corner. Fact is, most organs in the body have stem cells and it requires extensive research and clinical trials to identify them and use them for regenerative medicine.
Dr. Srivastava explained why successful stem cell experiments in animal studies are widely publicizedto generate public interest for funds to further necessary research in that area. And it is wrong to hype the business possibilities in stem cell therapy because the field is still evolving and while there are those still investing, there are many venture capitalists who have pulled out of stem cell research in the West.
Hematopoietic (blood cell forming) stem cell transplantation in India
Stem cell treatment can help more than 120, 000 Indians diagnosed with blood cancers, most of them being children and another 10, 000 children born with Thalassemia (a blood disorder that needs one or two blood transfusions each month if the children have to live). According to the Indian Stem Cell Transplant Registry the number of blood stem cell transplants done in India till date is 4015. India is learning how to improve on the previous protocol and move towards event-free survival for patients with different regimens. It is imperative to move towards making blood stem cell treatment cost-effective and affordable to more patients.
Jeevan Stem Cell Bank in Chennai
Speaking on the occasion, Dr. P. Srinivasan, Chairman of Jeevan Stem Cell Bank, India's first not-for-profit public stem cell bank explained the need for cord blood banks in India saying patients with blood disorders and blood cancers had a hope for cure if they have access to matching stem cells from donated umbilical cord blood. Stem cell DNA match is highly dependent on ethnicity. An Indian hoping to find a match in another country has a less than 10% chance, while there is a 60% chance of finding a match in an Indian inventory. Even if a match is found it costs more than $ 45,000 to import one unit of stem cell, which is beyond the reach of most patients here in India.
Dr. Saranya Narayan, Jeevan Stem Cell Bank's Medical Director explained the need for increasing the current inventory to ensure a complete match for treating a patient and disclosed that the cord blood bank nearly went into closure owing to lack of funds needed to process and preserve the harvested cord blood. A recent 60-lakh funding from individuals and business houses has helped revive operations to a certain extent and with further public support Jeevan is confident of creating an inventory of 30,000 stem cell units in the next five years. This should bring Indian patients living with blood cancers and thalassemia in different parts of the world closer to quick and affordable access to matching stem cells and lifesaving stem cell treatment.