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Old August 15th, 2001, 03:39 AM
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Stem cell research in India

Stem cells have attracted a lot of researchers because of their pluripotence, durability and 'undifferentiatedness' (in contrast normal differentiated cells 'commit suicide' or apoptosis after 30-50 cell divisions). It is absolutely mind-boggling how many uses can potentially be derived from stem cell research. However this research is in its infancy and has not reached critical mass yet. One of the reasons for the 'slow' progress has been prohibitive regulation because of ethical reservations on this issue.
What is done routinely nowadays is autologous stem cell transplantation after chemotherapy to resupply destroyed bone marrow.
Cultivation is actually where most of the research is concentrated today resulting in many interesting therapeutical agents, eg colony stimulating factors (GM-CSF, EPO), cytokines (IL-3, IL-5, gamma interferon etc.) and many more coming up.

I have just read following article on upcoming programs in India, and would like to know what Indians think of stem cell research. Can you imagine that in 10-20 years from now you might be receiving, let's say, renal tissue derived from cultivated stem cells from aborted fetuses or cloned from your own tissue stem cells, with appropriately modified antigenicity (tailor-made tissue) instead of a kidney-transplant? I am sure dialysis patients can! Or for patients with Parkinson's disease who might want to get dopaminergic cells implanted (already done in mice)? The list is simply endless.

Would you risk the costs (ethical issues) for seemingly great benefits?
(I apologize for the somewhat long post)

India launches stem cell research program
The Department of Biotechnology (DBT) has launched three major programmes on stem cell research aimed at treating blindness and some types of brain disorders, and is hoping to allot a 'significant amount of funding' for this area of research in the 10th five year plan, a senior DBT official has said.
The L V Prasad Eye Institute in Hyderabad and the newly created National Brain Research Center (NBRC) in New Delhi will be among the beneficiaries of DBT funding, N K Vinayak, head of DBT's medical biotechnology division said.

The availability of stem cells from legally aborted foetuses and unused embryos from test-tube baby clinics will help speed up research in this area 'that has great potential in future', Vinayak said.

The Indian Council of Medical Research guidelines allow use of aborted foetuses and less than 14-day old embryos in medical research. But transplantation of stem cells into humans is permitted only after animal trials when other forms of treatment are not available.

Doctors in test-tube baby clinics create several embryos and unused embryos are flushed down the toilet.

Vinayak said these could be put to use because embryonic cells are a rich source of stem cells, which, under proper conditions, have the ability to differentiate into tissues of choice.

According to Vinayak, technology is now available to isolate, culture, and maintain stem cells and also to modify these cells into specialised cell lines for transplantation purposes.

"Industry is very much interested to collaborate in this work," Vinayak said.
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Old August 15th, 2001, 06:21 AM
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Agreed ...stem cell has a lot to offer..but the current debate is about the long as 'unused,aborted' foetuses are used ..i guess that may be fine..but
people fear if this thing will get ugly ...i mean aborting on purpose..!!!!
I guess it is always 'all right'(!) if you use animals for research..but well,human life is sooooo much more 'sacred'...!!!to me ,well, if it is ethical to brutalize animals..then no harm in experimenting with unused foetuses...
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Old August 15th, 2001, 06:25 AM
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how shoo doing culumunumbuious-nimboo ??
winning is my birthright !!
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Old August 16th, 2001, 04:37 AM
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shahenshah: I just want to clarify, I don't forsee embryonic stem cells being used therapeutically. But research is very much dependant on them because foetuses are an abundant source of stem cells. At this point of time there seems to be no other alternative. Extracting stem cells from 'adult' tissue is very difficult today, but that will be the only future ethically sound way of doing it. It will also involve genetic tinkering to reduce transplant rejection, improved functionality (pancreatic islet cells) etc. So in the end it will be no issue about 'use of foetuses' alone but about human ethics on how he tries to changes nature for better or for worse. India normally takes a very moralistic stand on such global issues, and I was just curious to make out any consensus on this.

khopdi: please be more specific
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Old August 16th, 2001, 04:40 AM
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Hi CumuloNimbus it might be of your intrest

By Grant Holloway
CNN Sydney Bureau

MELBOURNE, Australia -- Researchers have successfully harvested stem cells from mouse brains, a breakthrough which could reduce the need to use human embryos for this purpose.

Thursday's issue of the science journal Nature reports the successful research from Australia's Walter and Eliza Hall Institute.

Stem cells are able to generate themselves into other, specialized cells, in particular the types of cells which naturally fight disorders or replace damaged or diseased cells. Before this reseach it was not known if mature brain stem cells could do this too.

The head of the neurobiology group at the Melbourne-based institutute, Perry Bartlett, says the group has also unequivocally shown the adult stem cells can become other types of cells.

"It's really taken us this last nine or 10 years to be able to find what the cell looks like, and having found, we can now look at ways of being able to stimulate it into making new nerve cells with the possibility of replacing damaged or lost nerve cells in the adult brain," he said.

In-Depth: The stem cell debate

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"It's important in the sense that there's been a debate about whether stem cells from adult tissues, whether that be brain or blood or elsewhere, do have the potential of embryonic stem cells to give rise to various tissues."

Stem cells are very hard to harvest because of their rarity, Nature reports.

In the human brain for instance, only one in every 300 cells is a stem cell.

Pure samples the key
Sieving through mouse brain cells, Bartlett and his colleagues gradually weeded out different types, eventually emerging with a technique which enabled them to retrieve 80 percent of the stem cells. Previous methods were retrieving only 5 percent stem cells.

Now the search can begin for the molecules that determine these cells' fates, says Nature.

The "major goal", says Bartlett, is that adult stem cells, which do not naturally regenerate damaged nerves, might one day be kick-started into repairing tissues in conditions such as spinal injury, and Parkinson's and Alzheimer's diseases.

Fred Gage, a stem cell researcher at the Salk Institute in La Jolla, California, who was not involved in the study, said the most important finding was the ability to produce relatively pure samples of neural stem cells.

Still need for embryo cells
"What they've done is for the first time ... identify the source of stem cells. We now have markers and we have techniques to pull them out with," Gage said.

Ronald McKay, a stem cell researcher at the National Institutes of Health, said the new work does not eliminate the need for embryonic stem cell research.

"It's still going to take a lot of work to figure out how adult cells can be turned into all the cells we need," McKay said.

"This kind of work on the adult cell needs to be greatly extended if we are going to find out how to take an adult cell and get it to do anything we want."

The head of Neurology and Paediatrics at John Hopkins University in the US, Professor Hugo Moser, agreed saying adult stem cells would never be as useful as cells from embryos.

"The experience has been, and it makes logical sense, that the adult cells have some capacity of turning themselves into something else, but they're not as good at it as embryonic stem cells," he said
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Old August 16th, 2001, 05:07 AM
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IA: Thanks for the articles! Just two points of caution:

[1] You see, there is usually a difference between 'adult' and 'embryonic' stem cells. Whereas embryonic stem cells have the ability to 'generate' a whole organ with intact architecture this ability has been 'deactivated' in 'adult' stem cells. This is probably the hardest task for the geneticists to alter cell states by manipulation. (Even then extracting human stem cells will be exponentially more difficult than in mice, and also these mice I am sure () are either dead now or severely handicapped even though my colleagues in Australia excercised utmost diligence...I hope that wont happen to the poor human patients!)

[2] I actually worked on a mouse model in which we could regenerate spinal chord injuries (poor things) with antibodies (called Anti-NoGo) against inhibitory factors, old story, but it was proven (not by us) that this would never work satisfactorily on humans. Murine model are important and nice, but to translate that into a human model is very challenging.

Nevertheless progress is incremental till critical mass is achieved. This is not a breakthrough yet.
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Old August 16th, 2001, 07:24 AM
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As a victim of kidney problems right since I was two years old, I could very well say that if it comes to therapeutic purposes, i am all for stem cell research.

BUT, the age old question arises, how long before it is promised or should I say guaranteed that the embryonic stem cells are used for this and not for................
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Old August 16th, 2001, 07:30 AM
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I think

that any research which benefits mankind should go on. Offcourse we should not allow killing foetus's just like that. All medical inspection like unborn or rejected foetuses alone should be used.

I am no medical expert but we should not kill a cell that might be in the process of becoming a human baby. Only if the cell is about to be rejected or it is not going to be medically be able to become a normal human baby, then these cells can be used.
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Old August 18th, 2001, 12:26 AM
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Seems like I am not the only one to be curious about "India's position" : BBC Talking Point
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