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Military College to Set Up Stem Cell Research Centre

Asia's biggest state-of-the-art stem cell research centre is being planned at the Pune-based Armed Forces Medical College (AFMC) campus to treat diseases//, a general says.

"Stem cell therapy is the futuristic regenerative or reparative medicine. It will be the futuristic treatment replacing drug therapy and surgery. Through stem cell treatment, heart diseases, diabetes, Parkinson's disease, epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, eye and muscle disease and various other diseases can be cured," Surgeon Vice Admiral V.K. Singh, the Armed Forces Medical Services director general, told IANS.

A sum of Rs.500 million has been allocated for the proposed stem cell research centre. About 150 scientists from Pune's Cell Science Research Centre will be engaged in research and application. Currently, 28 scientists are researching on stem cells in Pune, 10 in New Delhi and seven in Mumbai, he added. Admiral Singh, also chairman of Military Medicine Association (Asia Chapter), said funding would be made available to make it Asia's biggest state-of-the-art stem cell research centre as this was the future of medical treatment/therapy for various diseases and India could not lag behind.

He said the longevity of humans could also be increased through stem cell treatment. "Stem cells are one of the most fascinating areas of the study of biology. Stem cells have the potential to develop into many different cell types in the body with a more specialised function such as a muscle cell, a heart muscle cell, a red blood cell or a brain cell," Singh told IANS after his keynote address at a 'Stem Cell Therapy' seminar organised by the Department of Transfusion Medicine, AFMC.

Stem cell treatment is a new technique that relies on replacing diseased or dysfunctional cells with healthy, functioning ones. "These new techniques are being applied to a wide range of human diseases, including many types of cancer, neurological diseases like Parkinson's disease and spinal cord injuries," the director general said. "Replacing dead cells in the retina with new ones may someday cure even presently incurable eye diseases such as glaucoma and macular degeneration," he said. Stem cells could be obtained from three sources: embryonic cells, adult cells (bone marrow) and umbilical cord blood cells from the placenta.

Lab tests carried out by scientists, Admiral Singh said, revealed that young stem cells could be used to replace the damaged or dead ones in diseased organs. "This stem cell therapy is similar to the process of organ transplant, only the treatment consists of the transplantation of cells rather than organs," he explained. Initially stem cell therapy was used only for treatment of blood diseases such as Thalassemia, Fanconi's anaemia and certain types of cancers as multiple myeloma and leukaemia.

"We are not playing god. Our intention is not to create a super human being but to repair diseased and damaged human tissues and organs," said Col. Harsh Kumar, head of the Department of Transfusion Medicine, AFMC. "Stem cell therapy, a futuristic treatment in medicine, is all set to revolutionise and replace drug-based treatment as stem cells have the potential to form parts of the human body. It is absolutely achievable," he added.


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