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India Should Take the Lead in Stem Cell Research, Expert

India should make the best use of the impasse in the US over stem cell research. Indeed it has the potential to become a global //hub in that sphere, scientist and entrepreneur Dr William J Rutter has said.

Dr Rutter,who is a co-founder of Chiron Corp, a leading biopharma and vaccine company in the US, was talking to reporters in the southern Indian city of Hyderabad. He is participating in the BioAsia 2004 summit being held there.

Dr Rutter, who is also the head of Hormone Research Institute at San Fransisco, was conferred the Genome Valley Excellence award for his contributions to biotechnology at the summit.

“This field offers immense potential in the treatment of various ailments which require replacement of damaged or dead tissues. Unfortunately in the US, the regulatory system does not allow research on this subject,” he regretted.

The therapeutic potential lies in the possibility of breeding stem cells and transplanting them to repair damaged or dead tissues in the body. This could remove the need for organ transplantations, which is currently the treatment for replacing destroyed tissue. But a lot more work needs to be done before tissue transplantation could be achieved, Dr.Rutter noted.

Meantime the Lifeline, a multi-specialty Hospital, based in Chennai, capital of the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu, has tied up with international universities to venture into stem cell research in collaboration with some international universities.

"We have tied up with the Japan based Teruman University and we will be collaborating with them in treatments using stem cells. They will be providing the technological assistance to harvest and provide the stem cells," said JS Rajkumar, chairman of the Lifeline group of Hospitals.

The hospital is planning to do research using stem cells for treating diseases such as liver disorder, diabetes and spinal injuries. There are also plans to introduce surgery for diabetes and metabolic disorders and minimal invasive surgery for cardiac diseases.

He said that the hospital had also tied up with St Louis University, Missouri for performing the paediatric cardio thoracic surgery.

"I would term this as a surgery outsourcing. People will be operated upon at a reasonable price and they would not need to fly all the way to Ohio or some other foreign country and get their surgery done after spending heavy amounts. We have all the technology and we will be assisted by international universities," said Rajkumar.

He also claimed the process of stem cell harvesting adopted by his hospital would be different from what was being used elsewhere.

The hospital would consider making available the technology to other institutions after five years or so, it is reported.

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