Stem cell treatment offers potential cure for age-related illnesses

March 10, 2010 01:44 am | Updated 01:44 am IST - CHENNAI:

Emeritus Professor of Tamilnadu Dr.MGR Medical University J.G.Kannappan (right), interacting with students at an awareness programme on ‘Stem cell’ in Chennai on Tuesday. Photo: R. Shivaji Rao

Emeritus Professor of Tamilnadu Dr.MGR Medical University J.G.Kannappan (right), interacting with students at an awareness programme on ‘Stem cell’ in Chennai on Tuesday. Photo: R. Shivaji Rao

Stem cell treatment offers the greatest potential of a cure for many age-related illnesses. Right now, doctors are struggling to find practical applications of technology that has been proven in laboratory settings, said S.Natarajan, Chairman and Managing Director, Aditya Jyot Eye Hospital.

Pointing out that stem cells, which are present in large numbers in the foetal cell, can give rise to 250 types of specialised cells in the body, Dr.Natarajan said “It is therapeutic cell which can be used to replace tissues/organs and to repair damaged or defective cells.”

He was speaking here on Tuesday at the inauguration of a four-day awareness programme on ‘Stem cell' organised at Science City, Periyar Science and Technology Campus. Postgraduate students from various streams like biochemistry, microbiology and molecular biology took part in the event.

Foetal stem cells can be transplanted to repair or rejuvenate tissue in a recipient without rejection within the first 12 weeks and they can also be used for cloning using techniques such as somatic cell nucleus transfer, he said.

The theme of the workshop was to expose students to research potential in the emerging field. The four- day event will cover stem cell techniques, harvesting and banking, transplantation mechanisms and field visits.

“The body has its own repair mechanisms and we are just learning to tap into nature's gift,” said J.G.Kannappan, emeritus professor, Tamilnadu Dr.MGR Medical University. “Our red blood cells are replaced every six weeks. If we can understand nature's processes, we might be able to find cures for diseases such as diabetes or Alzheimer's.”

While the field has a lot of potential, “pressing ethical issues need to be addressed while moving forward,” Dr.Kannappan said. Stem cell technology can lead to designer human beings and human tissue might be used for merchandising. Regulations have to come in now before widespread use of the technology takes off, he added.

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