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Three Chennai-based institutes ink pact for buccal epithelial cell therapy for cornea

Thursday, December 18, 2008 08:00 IST
Peethaambaran Kunnathoor, Chennai

Three Chennai-based research institutes have inked a tripartite pact to make available the revolutionary buccal mucosal epithelial cell based solutions, based on a Japanese technology, for severe corneal surface disease. This tripartite MoU is the first time in India for cell therapy for cornea.

The Chennai-based ophthalmology hospitals Rajan Eye Care (REC) and Darshan Eye Clinic (DEC) will soon start this treatment jointly with Nichi-In Centre for Regenerative Medicine (NCRM), which developed the technology of isolating and expanding patient's buccal mucosa (inner portion of the cheek) in their laboratory as per protocols developed by Japanese scientists.

Dr Abraham of NCRM, Dr Mohan Rajan of REC and Dr Srinivas K Rao of DEC have signed and exchanged the pact.

"Cornea is the black central transparent portion of the eye which is affected by physical or chemical injuries and diseases such as stem cell deficiency. Corneal stem cells, which are present around the black portion, can repair the damages when they are within their capability. If the damages are too severe in one eye, the opposite eye normal stem cells could be transplanted. But when the patient comes with both eyes having corneal stem cell damage, then either donor transplantation is necessary or a procedure called OOKP (Ortho-Odonto Kerato Prosthesis) will have to be done," Dr Mohan Raj of REC said.

The OOKP is a two or three-step procedure done only in two centres in the country, one among them is REC.

According to Dr Abraham, this new procedure to be started will use the patient's own buccal mucosa therefore they will not be rejected. A small portion of the buccal mucosa taken from REC and DEC will be sent to NCRM where the cells will be isolated and expanded several fold then transplanted in the affected eye of the patient. This procedure developed by Dr. Nishida of Japan is started for the first time in India.

"In addition to the earlier methodologies, we have made it much advanced by not using biological proteins such as Human Amniotic membrane, which reduces the chances for rejection and better success rates as proven in clinical treatments earlier," he said

According to Dr Rao, specialist in corneal surgeries, the advantage of this procedure over OOKP is that this could be done in short duration as day care procedure whereas OOKP is a time consuming procedure taking a few months between each step and also the patient has to sacrifice a tooth.

Cataract surgery is done in all hospitals routinely and this kind of advanced technologically demanding surgeries are done in a very few centres, said Dr Mohan Rajan. "The earlier done studies in the laboratory with NCRM have yielded positive results with cell isolation, expansion and characterization which have made us plan for starting this unique procedure for the first time in India," he added.
- Courtesy Pharma Bizz, 18 December 2008 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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