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Stem Cells

Stem Cells: Heralding a new era of hope

Over centuries our understandingof the brain has improved significantly. Yet the organ remains shrouded in mystery and evokes a great deal of curiosity from people of all ages—from the young to the very old. Everyone, regardless of age, wishes to have an intact memory and alertness. With the emergence of new technologies several neurological conditions have been diagnosed but many of these continue to defy cure. In comparison to other diseases there is adisproportionatenumber of such neurological conditions.Being incurable, they place a significant burden on society resulting in economic stress that adds up to one percent of global GDP. This is particularly back-breaking for emerging economies like India where health care systems are already over-stretched.

Meanwhile, organ transplantation has become a reality but for the brain it still remains in the realm of science fiction. Now, however, neuroscientists have realized that this need not necessarily be so and it is indeed possible to regenerate parts of the brain paving the way for regenerative medicine. Such belief is based on the latest breakthroughs in stem cell research. After all, every human entity originally starts as a single cell.

Scientists have succeeded in tracing the path of development and tracking down THE CELL that forms different organs – Stem Cells. Today we are able to isolate culture and multiply these human cells in the laboratory for research and possible clinical applications. With many years of experience I have been able to understand the problems facingneurosciences, identify clinical priorities and propose possible approaches for validation. These approaches factor in the perspectives of academia and industry and an understandingof the importance of the biotechnology and pharmaceutical industries for addressing the current unmet medical needs.

Indeed, this was my motivation to interact with basic scientists and involve them in the process of clinically-oriented research, which would ensure solutions that could translate into hope for issues that are clinically incurable. Such translation requires reasonable understanding of the disease mechanisms and the application of relevant research methodologies that balance all influences including clinical, scientific, regulatory, ethical and financial.

Over the last fifteen yearsworking with messenchymal stem cells has given me a tremendous opportunity to understand their clinical possibilities for offering hope to people stricken with metabolic and degenerative conditions. Traditional macro neurosurgery has evolved into micro, endo, nano and molecular neurosurgery. ‘Cellular Neurosurgery’ seems to be an elegant approach that will benefit several incurable neurological conditions in addition to preserving the integrity of brain tissue, promoting brain regeneration and even addressing problemsrelated to aging.

Stem cells can be harvested from individuals leading to personalized tailor-made therapies. The current advances and understanding are so exciting that soon we be able to offer not only hope but also make the blind see, deaf hear, dumb speak and the paralyzed walk.

By Dr. N K Venkataramanaa

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