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
Promise 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.
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 publicized—to
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
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
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
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
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
in different parts of the world closer to quick and affordable
access to matching stem cells and lifesaving stem cell treatment.