Stem Cell and Research in India
- Characteristics of Stem cells
- Recent Research in Stem cells
- Regulating Stem cell research in India
- Stem cells are a class of undifferentiated cells that are able to differentiate into specialized cell types. Stem cells are body’s natural reservoirs – replenishing stocks of specialized cells that have been used up or damaged.
- In Addition, in many tissues they serve as a sort of internal repair system, dividing throughout the lifespan to replenish other cells.
Two important characteristics of Stem cells
There are two important characteristics of a stem cell which separates them from other types of cells:
- They are unspecialized cells capable of renewing themselves through cell-division, sometimes after long period of inactivity.
- When cell division takes place, the new cell has the potential either to remain a stem cell or become another type of cell with a more specialized function, such as muscle cell, red blood cell, or a brain cell.
Recent Research in Stem Cells technologies
- Every cell in the body is derived from the first few stem cells formed in the early stage of embryonic development. Therefore, stem cells extracted from embryos can be induced to become any desired cell type. This property makes stem cells powerful enough to regenerate damaged tissues under right conditions. Therefore, Scientists and researchers are interested in stem cells:
- Organ and Tissue Regeneration
- Probably the most important possible application of stem cell research.
- Shortage of donated organs in India, makes this potential of stem cell very desirable.
- g. stem cells that lie just beneath the skin, for example, have been used to engineer new skin tissue that can be grafted onto burn victim.
- Cardiovascular Disease Treatment
- Using stem cells to repair or regenerate blood vessels could eventually help treat human patients with cardiovascular and vascular diseases.
- Brain Disease Treatment
- Replacement cells and tissues have the potential to treat brain diseases such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s by replenishing damaged tissue.
- Cell Deficiency therapy
- Healthy heart cells developed in laboratory may one day be transplanted into patients with heart disease, repopulating the heart with healthy tissues.
- Similarly, people with type I diabetes may receive pancreatic cells to replace the insulin producing cells that have been lost or destroyed by the patient’s own immune system.
- Blood Disease Treatment
- Right now, blood diseases are treated mostly by invasive bone marrow extraction
- through invasive bone marrow transplants.
- However, hematopoietic stem cells have also been found in the umbilical cord and placenta. This has led some scientists to call for an umbilical cord blood bank to make these powerful cells more easily obtainable and to decrease the chances of body’s rejecting therapy.
- Organ and Tissue Regeneration
- General Scientific Discovery
- Stem cell research is also important for learning about human development.
Controversies Associated with Stem cell Research
- Life: Controversies are primarily driven by methods concerning embryonic stem cell research. The main critique of the research is that it required the destruction of a human blastocyste. a fertilized egg was not given the chance to develop into a fully developed human.
- Debates surrounding Chimeras.
Regulating Stem Cell Research in India
- Curb rampant malpractice/ misuse of stem cell treatment
- Protect consumers/patients
- Provide a regulated environment for research in the technology.
What has been done?
- Banned commercial use of stem cells “as elements of therapy” -> only clinical trials allowed.
- The guidelines add that any stem cell used in patients, other than that by treating approved blood (hematopoietic) disorders is “investigation in present” and can be conducted only in the form of clinical trial after obtaining regulatory approval from Central Drugs Standards Control Organization (CDSCO).
- Only spare embryos or gametes can be used, and genome modified human embryos “should not be cultured beyond 14 days of fertilization”.
- Prohibit research related to human germline gene therapy, reproductive cloning, and clinical trials involving ‘xenogeneic” cells – those derived from different species.
- Only umbilical cord blood banking is permitted for the present, but not banking of all other biological material.
- International collaborations in stem cell research and import of any type of stem cells require approvals from the respective funding agencies and the CDSCO.
- Stem cell therapy is gaining popularity in India to treat a wide variety of medical conditions including Leukemia, Thalassemia, damaged cornea and several burns. Describe briefly what stem cell therapy is and what advantages it has over other treatments? [250 words, 15 marks] [Mains 2017]
- Suggest some measures to promote stem cell research in the country? [150 words, 10 marks]