Chennai Gets Stem Cell Research, Banking Center

by Medindia Content Team on Nov 29 2007 2:57 PM

Leading US stem cell research firm LifeCell has helped set up a Rs 50-million cord blood stem cell banking and research facility at Sri Ramachandra Medical University, Chennai to help stem cell and bone marrow transplants for haematological and oncological disorder patients.

The state-of-the-art facility to be known as the TRICell facility, which is spread across an area of 10,000 square feet in the university campus, was inaugurated by former president A.P.J. Kalam Wednesday.

LifeCell is a service provided by Asia CRYO-CELL Private Ltd, which has brought umbilical cord stem cell banking to India. It has collection centres in most Indian cities and its largest cell banking facility is located in Florida, US.

"We have initially invested about Rs 5 crore (Rs 50 million) in this centre for research activities to be carried out by world-renowned stem cell therapists. We are committed to invest more funds in this segment in the coming years," said S. Abhaya Kumar, vice chairman of TRICell.

"TRICell is being developed in various stages, which would enable stem cell transplantation for haematological problems and malignancies, and also facilitate stem cell transplantations for other specific disorders," Kumar said.

"The Clinical Research arm of TRICell will conduct neurological and vascular (blood vessel) disorder clinical trials to begin with and expand its horizon to other areas in due course," he added. "I am happy that TRICell will be able to introduce the concept of regenerative medicine and will remain the clinical platform for all future stem cell related work and therapies at affordable costs," the TRICell official said.

Speaking about the new facility, V. R. Venkataachalam, chancellor of SRM University, said, "I am delighted that this is a combination of an excellent clinical unit with a stem cell research facility and will open new avenues in patient care, research and teaching."

"With this tie-up we will be providing the benefits of scientific advancement to the people in India," he added. In the beginning, TRICell will support research and treatment of cancers affecting the blood.

Later, TRICell will introduce treatment methods in regenerative medicine - a concept in which stem cells are induced to differentiate into the specific cell types required to repair damaged or destroyed cell populations. "We also plan to set up public banking in cord blood and other stem cell sources, like bone marrow and cord lining," Kumar said.

The centre will also support medical tourism that is treating foreign patients, he added. The Sri Ramachandra Medical Centre (SRMC), built in 1985, is a tertiary care multi-specialty university hospital and treats about 3,000 patients every day.

The tie-up with the university allows access for customers of TRICell to support services such as ICU, analytical and testing facilities. From Dec 10, TRICell begins a one-year clinical trial on 60 patients of peripheral vascular diseases, in collaboration with Harvest Technology, USA.

Drug Controllers and ethics panels have okayed the year-long clinical trial at the centre, the university and the company said. "A US FDA protocol will be used for the trial and has no side effect in case of failure", Kumar explained.