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India - The Emerging Super Power in Stem Cell Research

Posted by Harish at Monday, January 18, 2010

Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic. 
 ~Arthur C. Clarke

I think this saying is very true. Let me prove this with an example. Let us assume a person meets with an accident, damages his spinal cord and is paralyzed. This means he cannot recover back to normal state anytime soon. What happens if a doctor treats him with a few injections and he is completely recovered in 2 years! If that seems to be a fiction, I shall take another example. An alcoholic spoils his liver. Traditionally he needs to do a liver transplant it but what if he can recover in six months or less in just a few injections? What if these are very economical that even a daily wager can afford it? Unbelievable? But all this is very true without any magic from Harry Potter! This is done by using a new technology called Stem Cell Therapy. When I read about it, the realization it gave me was like an atheist coming face to face with God. Here is a brief intro to this magic

What is Stem Cell Therapy?   
Have you every wondered how a baby is formed from the embryo? Of course, the obvious answer would be repeated division of the cells in it. When you look again into what you just said you meant 'from the cells of the embryo more than 200 types of cells in various parts of the body is formed'. Every part of the body right from the brain to bones are formed from a single type of cell in the embryo. This is precisely the base of stem cell therapy. These cells in the embryo are called stem cells. In an adult, these are still available in bone marrows, pupil of the eye etc. It is because of these, human body is able to regenerate injured cells and body parts. Adult stem cells are weaker than the younger ones. This answers why older people find it tough to recover from severe injuries. Stem cell therapy is a treatment procedure from which stem cells are extracted and injected in the damaged portion where it grows into the required type of cell and viola! You are back to normal! This is the magic of stem cell therapy. 

From Where are the Stem Cells Extracted?
Stem cells may be extracted from your bone marrow or pupil etc. There are three types of stem cell transplants. Autologous, Allogenic, Syngenic. In the first case, cells are from self. In the second case, it is from another individual, either a relation or totally unrelated person. In the last case, it is from the identical twin. In most cases only autologous transplants are used. This brings us to our next question.

Where do I get the Young Stem Cells from?
Young stem cells are available in the embryo and umbilical cord. Young cells are very effective in blending into any body part and doing their magic. Couples are paying between seventy five thousand and one lakh to preserve the stem cells of their baby's embryo within 2 weeks of its formation. These are stored in stem cell banks. This is a clear indication of where stem cell therapy is going in the future. 

State of Stem Cell Research in India
India is driving the express of Stem Cell Research and Therapy! Several centers are established for research and therapy in India. Some of them are

Apollo Hospital, Chennai
Apollo Gleneagles Hospital, Kolkata
All India Institute of Medical Science, New Delhi
India Hospital Tour
Nichi-In Center for Regenerative Medicine, Chennai
LifeCell, Chennai
Lokmanya Tilak Municipal General Hospital, Mumbai
Reliance Group of Hospitals

Apart from this several small players are also into the sector. 

Applications so far
Though the stem cell therapy is in its nascent stages in India, several diseases such as diabetes, cancer, neurology, cardiac, ocular, liver problems, fractures and injuries due to accidents etc. In future, almost any disorder can be cured using this technology.

Stem cell therapy though it has its own group of critics stating moral issues, it is still a very valuable technology to be over-looked. Also, doctors are not sure how the stem cells react to various parts of the body. We don't want a bone to be grown in the brain! Government of India is also spending more on this sector. Research in this field is advancing very rapidly and India is at the top of it! Proud to be an Indian!


abhijna said...

nice1!though dis is being used since 2o yrs or more, der wer only a small number of ppl who actually tried to know abt it n work on it but now im glad dat its been brought into limelight and its advancing much ahead n its a gud thing dat uve blogged on it:)

Harish said...

Yea! This is a wonderful technology which can save countless lives. No wonder the government is pumping money into this like anything.

Anonymous said...

The stem cell research in India is in its nascent stage and is gradually on a growth path of acceptance by people. The market is still in a phase of conducting research to establish itself as one of the best therapies for the widely prevalent incurable lifestyle diseases. Awareness campaigns and doctors are playing a key role educating people and especially would-be parents about the benefits associated with preserving stem cells.

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