Staff Reporter

Offers scope for the development of regenerative therapy

  • `Researchers focussing on biologically active substances'
  • `Cell biologists hold the key to future developments'

    Thiruvananthapuram: The future of cardiovascular research is in stem cell studies, which offer great scope for the development of regenerative therapy for heart diseases, M.S. Valiathan, Honorary Advisor, Manipal Academy of Higher Education and National Research Professor has said.

    If earlier researchers were looking at inert surfaces for the development of cardio prosthetic devices, now scientists were going back to nature, in search of biologically active substances and cell transplantation to regenerate damaged cardio tissues and cells, he said. More than cardiothoracic surgeons, it is cell biologists who hold the key to future developments in the battle against cardiovascular diseases, he added.

    Dr. Valiathan was inaugurating the three-day workshop on Cardiovascular Prosthetic Devices, jointly organised by the Sree Chitra Tirunal Institute for Medical Sciences and Technology and the Indo-US Science and Technology Forum, New Delhi, here on Thursday.

    Research is time consuming and it might take years before a concept can be developed to technology and for it to be accepted by the medical profession.

    It took over 16 years before SCTIMST could ready the prosthetic valve for clinical trials in December 1990 and another 11 years before the technology could be successfully commercialised for the benefit of poor patients, Dr. Valiathan remembered. As per the estimates of the Indian Council for Medical Research, 3-6 out of every 1,000 children are at risk of rheumatic heart diseases, requiring valve replacement in the country. Even though around 50 million people suffer from coronary artery diseases here, annually only 25,000 to 40,000 surgical and interventional procedures are conducted.

    The role of cardiovascular prosthetic devices has been going up in the treatment of coronary artery diseases because of the safer and durable options now available for patients. Despite the high level of requirement, the country continues to import almost 80 per cent of all biomedical devices and research and development in this field is also restricted to select centres in India. The Indo-US workshop is designed to highlight areas of research, including experimental, animal and human trials for cardiovascular implants, primarily stents and prosthetic heart valves. Those who spoke at the inaugural session included K. Mohandas, Director, SCTIMST; G.S. Bhuvaneswar, the head of SCTIMST's Bio-Medical Technology wing and Keefe B. Manning, Professor of Pennsylvania State University.