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'iPS Cell Technology Can Cure Blood Diseases'

International stem cell meet by NCRM concludes with a ray of hope

Treating blood cancers such as aplastic aneamia and thalassemia by stem cells engineered in the lab will be possible in the near future, said Dr Yukio Nakamura, a world renowned stem cell scientist and head of bio resources centre, Riken Institute, Japan. He was speaking on the fourth anniversary of international stem cell meeting by Chennai-based Nichi-In Centre for Regenerative Medicine (NCRM), an Indo-Japan joint venture institute.

The iPS cell (Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells) technology discovered by Japanese scientists would pave way for such breakthrough as this technology does not involve usage of embryonic stem cells and therefore is devoid of ethical conflicts, he added. This ray of hope for blood cancer victims had another shot in the arm with the possibility of laboratory expansion of human bone marrow blood forming stem cells (CD34+ cells) by the NCRM team without using animal protein presented in the meeting.

Red Blood Cells (RBC) are the cells that carry oxygen from the lungs to the other parts of the body which are depleted in conditions, like aplastic anemia and in thalassemias defective blood cells are formed. Both need multiple transfusion of blood components. However, finding donors whose blood or bone marrow will match that of the patients' HLA for such transfusions is difficult. Now, Dr Nakamura's team has developed a technology by which they could engineer RBCs in the lab from iPS cells in large quantities, thereby avoiding the need for searching donors every time the patient needs a transfusion which has been proven in animal studies for safety and efficacy.

Another breakthrough discovery of multiplying the bone marrow CD34+ stem cells (which are pluripotent and can also form blood components) in the lab was presented by the NCRM scientists. There are several earlier reports using many growth factors and serum derived from animal sources which not only make the procedure very expensive, but also the contamination due to animal serum is of concern. "However, in our methodology we have not used growth factors or animal serum, which makes this technology affordable and contamination free," said Dr Abraham, Director, NCRM.

Earlier, Dr Ryuji Hata of Ehime university, Japan presented his work on prevention of auditory hair cell damage in animal models using hematopoietic stem cells, which he said in future may help treat sensory neural hearing loss.

Dr YY Rao of KG Hospital, Coimbatore, presented the successful outcome of bone marrow stem cell application in end stage cardiac disease patients.

The deputy consul general of Japan, Takayuki Kitagawa lauded the Indo-Japan collaborative efforts in this evolving field of stem cells by NCRM and its Japanese collaborators.

- Courtesy Express Healthcare, November 2009 issue.
*"Nichi" stands for Japan and "In" stands for India. This institute started on an Indo-Japan collaboration now has spreaded further with global alliances
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