This is a discussion on Christian Medical College within the Medical forums, part of the Health category; India is framing plans for a national stem cell initiative to increase clinical applications of research, build links between scientists ...
India is framing plans for a national stem cell initiative to increase clinical applications of research, build links between scientists and doctors and prioritise areas for research funding.
The plans, being drafted by the Indian Council of Medical Research and the department of biotechnology, include creating a fund to boost stem cell research, reports to the reputed science portal scidev.net.
According to Dorairajan Balasubramaniam, former director of the Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology in Hyderabad, India could take the lead in stem cell research as it is among the few countries with clearly defined ethical guidelines and has initiated so-called city clusters.
A key objective of the new initiative would be to promote "stem cell city clusters" that would link all publicly and privately funded research groups in a city, enabling them to share facilities, ideas and opportunities, he said.
India is specially interested in clinical applications of stem cells in ophthalmology, cardiology and spinal cord repair, said Balasubramaniam, who is currently director of research at the L.V. Prasad Eye Institute in Hyderabad.
Stem cells are cells found in different parts of the body such as the bone marrow, eye and umbilical cord that have the remarkable ability to develop into different types of cells depending on the nature of inputs.
Pioneering research in the area has helped scientists understand diseases better and develop new medical therapies.
Several major institutes in India are currently engaged in stem cell research for regenerating nerve, heart and adult muscle cells and for repairing damaged bone tissue.
The L.V. Prasad Eye Institute, for example, has treated blindness using stem cells derived from the eye.
Similarly, the Christian Medical College at Vellore in Tamil Nadu plans to use stem cells from bone marrow to treat chronic liver failure, heart disease, traumatic brain injury and Crohn's disease - a form of inflammatory bowel disease whose incidence is rising worldwide.
Other centres for stem cell research include the National Centre for Cell Sciences in Pune and the National Brain Research Centre at Manesar near Delhi.
According to Mahender Rao from the National Institute of Ageing in Baltimore, US, India has a successful in-vitro fertilisation (IVF) industry that regularly uses blastocysts - the initial cell mass formed when human eggs are fertilised - as a source for stem cells.
"(Indian) IVF clinics are already donating blastocysts for stem cell research," he said.
However, India has some disadvantages too. Groups working in the area are fragmented and there are insufficient resources for large-scale experiments.
In August 2004, an Indian parliamentary committee recommended that the department of biotechnology place greater emphasis on wider application of stem cells to treat genetic disorders.