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Stem Cell Research - Changing Wishes to Possibilities and Possibilities to Reality

The first International symposium on Stem cell Research and Therapy was conducted in Chennai, on the 6th of January. The programme was organized by LifeCell//, a pioneer in stem cell banking in association with Sri Ramachandra Medical College and Research Institute, one of the reputed medical institutions in the country.

Dr. Mammen Chandy, a leading hematologist, CMC, Vellore, headed the symposium. Following a small introduction about ‘Journey of LifeCell’, the scientific session was held. Dr. Paul. R. Sanberg, Dr. Umesh Banakar, Dr.Michael E.Trigg, Dr. Naynesh Kamani were amongst the participants.

Different aspects related to the potential of stem cell therapy and research was discussed in detail. The results of ‘Stem cell therapy in the treatment of neurological disorders such as ALS and stroke’ (in animal models), the ‘Role of stem cell transplantation in hematological malignancies’ (chronic myeloid leukemia (CML), acute myeloid leukemia (AML), acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL), myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS), aplastic anemia, Hodgkin’s disease), an ‘Overview of the ethical concerns associated with human stem cell research’, the possibility of ‘Stem cell transplantation as a curative therapy: Examples of Cord Blood use in Children- Outcome and Complications’ and the use of ‘Cord blood as an alternative source of haematopoietic Stem Cells for Transplantation in Children’ were some of the topics discussed.

The ultimate goal of stem cell research is to repair a damaged tissue that cannot heal by itself. Stem cells that are rightly termed as the ‘proverbial nectar of immortality’, can be used in the treatment of many diseases, which are often thought incurable. A few areas where this new treatment modality can be applied range from chronic diseases such as diabetes, stroke, cardiovascular disease to acute conditions like traumatic brain injury and limb amputation.

Stem cell therapy and research has drawn much exc itement and attention, both from members of the scientific community and general public due to the ethical concerns associated with it. Concepts of respect for human life, immortality, damage caused to human embryo (generated for reproductive purposes) during stem cell harvest, and the possibility of cloning human embryos for research are a few of the ethical considerations to be tackled before initiating stem cell research on a large scale.

Even though stem cell experiments conducted on animal models show much hope and promise in miracle cures, extreme caution has to be excised before this excitement can be translated to practical human clinicalapplications.

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