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Stem cells engineered in NCRM lab in Japan could cure blood cancer: Dr Nakamura
Tuesday, October 27, 2009 08:00 IST
Our Bureau, Chennai

Treating bone marrow disorders such as Aplastic anaemia and Thalassemia with stem cells engineered in the lab of NCRM in Japan will be possible in the near future, according to Dr Yukio Nakamura, world renowned stem cell scientist and head of bio resources centre, Riken institute, Japan.

The iPS cell (Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells) technology discovered by Japanese scientists would pave way for such breakthrough as this technology doesn’t involve usage of embryonic stem cells and therefore is devoid of ethical conflicts, he said. Dr. Nakamura was delivering a speech at the fourth anniversary- and International stem cell meeting organized by Chennai-based Nichi-In Centre for Regenerative Medicine (NCRM), an Indo-Japan joint venture institute.

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.

Dr Nakamura said 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 anaemia and in Thalassemia defective blood cells are formed. Both need multiple transfusions of blood components. However finding donors whose blood or bone marrow will match that of the patients’ HLA for such transfusions is difficult. The doctor’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.

According to Dr Samuel Abraham, director of NCRM, 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 in the literature of this nature 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.

Dr Shripad Banavali, head, Medical Oncology, Tata Memorial Hospital, Mumbai insisted in his talk the need for such technologies in India as India has many patients with blood diseases who need multiple transfusions. 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 and 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 at Chennai Takayuki Kitagawa lauded the Indo-Japan collaborative efforts in this evolving field of stem cells by NCRM and its Japanese collaborators and distributed the prizes to winners of the Fujio Cup Quiz, an all India quiz competition on stem cells conducted for the forth time consecutively named after the renowned Japanese physician Dr Fujio Takayama. The first prize and the prestigious ever-rotating Fujio cup went to the team from Manipal Institute of Regenerative Medicine, Bangalore.

The vice-chancellor of Tanuvas, Dr P Thangaraju congratulated the winners of the quiz programme and said that Tanuvas is proposing to set up a world class facility for animal stem cell research, treatment and banking in Chennai in collaboration with NCRM. He also congratulated Prof. Justin William of Tanuvas who has become the topper of the stem cell training programme conducted by NCRM jointly with University of Toronto.

- Courtesy Pharma Biz , 27th October 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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