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Stem cell centre beckons premier health hub

- AIIMS to offer advanced treatment with path-breaking research facility in March

The future of most advanced treatment is in the city with AIIMS-Patna deciding to set up a stem cell centre.

The director of the premier health hub, G.K. Singh, said the stem cell centre would be started by March this year.

Sources said the stem cell centre would be a positive step, as the state does not have such a facility at present. Stem cells are undifferentiated biological cells that can differentiate into specialised cells and can divide (through mitosis) to produce more stem cells. They are found in multi-cellular organisms.

Stem cell transplant has shown positive results in treating various diseases, including some forms of cancer, strokes, heart diseases, spinal chord injuries, neural defects among others. Stem cells can be taken from siblings or family members after tissue matching, known as allogeneic transplant, or can be harvested from a newborn baby’s umbilical cord, which is a rich source of such cells.

There are only10-11 centres in India — AIIMS-Delhi, Tata Memorial Centre and Jaslok Hospital in Mumbai, CMC-Vellore among others — where it can be done as such a set-up costs around Rs 1 crore depending on the type of procedure. However, director Singh said AIIMS-Patna would charge very less amount for stem cell transplant compared to other hospitals in the country.

Divulging the details of stem cell centre that would become functional at the hospital by March, Singh said: “We have the necessary infrastructure for stem cell therapy. Besides, we have a team of expert doctors, who are capable of isolating stem cells from the bone marrow and use it in various treatments. A stem cell centre can be started if you have an experienced orthopaedic surgeon, interventional radiologist and a stem cell expert who knows how to isolate stem cells from bone marrow. We have decided to start the centre by March.”

He added that the health hub would also step into research regarding stem cell therapies after the centre becomes functional.

Tissue regeneration is probably the most important possible application of stem cell research. Stem cells that lie just beneath skin have been used to engineer new skin tissue that can be grafted on to burn victims.

Indo-Canadian actress Lisa Ray underwent a stem cell transplant to treat multiple myeloma, an incurable form of blood cancer, and was later named a brand ambassador for stem cell therapy.

Stem cells are said to be future of medicine because they are potential solution to untreatable diseases. These special cells have capacity to turn into any of the 200 cell types found in the body. Stem cells have ability to replace damaged and diseased cells when supplied to site of injury or damage.

In brain surgery, replacement cells and tissues may be used to treat diseases such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s by replenishing damaged tissue, bringing back specialised brain cells that keep unneeded muscles from moving.

A team of researchers from Massachusetts General Hospital reported in PNAS Early Edition (July 2013 issue) that they were able to create blood vessels in laboratory mice using human stem cells.