Next-gen medicine: Stem cells in India
Stem cells, These two simple words hold profound meaning in the field of medicine and yet, the general populace knows very little about them. In 1968, the first bone marrow transplant was successfully performed, the first use of stem cells – it’s already been over half a century! Despite the unaware majority, use of stem cells in India has started revolutionizing medicinal practices across the nation.
What are stem cells?
Stem cells may be thought of as moldable clay. These cells can take the shape and form of any cell in the body, providing amazing healing capabilities. The two major sources of stem cells in India and around the globe are
- From embryos, known as embryonic stem cells and
- From adult tissue, knowns as adult stem cells.
Types of Stem Cells
While stem cells can take the form of any other cell in the body, these are the few tried and tested types of stem cells in India used today.
- Blood Stem Cells: Found in bone marrow
- Skin Stem Cells: Found in the epidermal (top-most) layer of the skin
- Cord Blood Stem Cells: Found in the umbilical cord of newborns
- Mesenchymal Stem Cells: Found in bone marrow
Stem Cell Treatment
Stem cells are miracle workers, offering highly effective medical treatment in India. While scientists are still working on the full extent of capabilities that stem cells possess, here are some diseases that are known to be cured with the use of stem cell treatments.
- Blood Disease Treatment
Adult stem cells taken from blood and bone marrow are used extensively in the treatment of leukaemia, sickle cell anaemia and other blood disorders. Stem cell treatments can cure up to 95% of blood-related disorders!
- Tissue Regeneration
One of their biggest applications, stem cells in India is being used to regenerate tissue in patients. This can eventually lead to growing entire organs, solving the long-ailing issue of organ transplant lists. Currently, stem cells are used to graft skin tissue for third-degree burn victims.
- Brain Disease Treatment
Embryonic stem cells can be used to regrow damaged brain tissue, leading to the treatment of diseases such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s.
- Cell Deficiency Treatment
As mentioned earlier, stem cells can take the form of any tissue in the body. These may then be transplanted in patients suffering from deficiency disorders. Presently, the only use of this treatment is in pancreatic transplants.
- Cardiovascular Disease Treatment
Though it has currently only been tested in mice, stem cells have been used to successfully regenerate entire blood vessels in mice. This treatment could eventually be used in humans to address cardiovascular diseases.
Regulations on Stem Cells
Stem cells in India used to be widely unregulated, but this is about to change as the Indian government plans to brain stem cells under its wing. Stem cells will now follow similar protocols to new drug development and will need clearance from drug regulatory authorities for any modification.
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