Stem Cell Research in India leaps ahead

Stem Cell Research in India leaps ahead

India’s Department of Biotechnology has allocated more than (3 billion rupees) over the last five years towards basic and applied research in stem-cell technology and is focused on diseases that affect millions of Indians rather than exotic diseases

The entire government-directed effort is in understanding the fundamentals of how stem cells work and conducting clinical trials to gauge the effectiveness of the therapy. The leading organization doing the fundamental work is the National Centre for Biological Sciences (NCBS) in Bangalore. “We are developing model systems–for example, planaria or hydra–to understand how stem cells work,” says S. Ramaswamy, dean of InStem at NCBS, quoted in Forbes magazine’s India edition.

Also active are the federal All India Institute of Medical Sciences,  L.V. Prasad Eye Institute, Centre for Stem Cell Research at Chrisitan Medical College Vellore near Chennai, Tamil Nadu  and the National Centre for Cell Sciences (NCCS) at Pune University. They are trying to focus on regeneration of damaged muscles stroke or cornea damage. Given the prevalence of heart attacks, blindness and strokes, this seems a sensible strategy. The task of these institutes is to locate promising sources of stem cells, apply stem-cell therapy to cure patients and verify if the procedure is stable enough for wider application.

This is exactly the area where private effort, too, has come to the fore. Dr. Satish Patki, along with Dr. Ramesh Bhonde of NCCS, has shown that the membrane lining of the female genital tract (endometrium) is a rich source of stem cells. Dr. Patki is now trying to see whether these stem cells can be used to generate blood flow to the fetus. “Without this therapy the blood pressure of the mother can rise to extremely abnormal levels, and a doctor may have to abort the pregnancy to save the mother,” he says. So far, he has only been able to use the tried and trusted bone marrow stem cells to do this.


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