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17 Sep 2014 2 Comments

Stem Cell Ninjas: India & Japan to find remedy for sickle cell disease through stem cells

During his recent visit to Japan, Prime Minister Modi met Nobel Prize winner Shinya Yamanaka, Director Kyoto University, to find a remedy for Sickle Cell Anaemia through stem cells. Shinya Yamanaka is the 2012 Nobel laureate, who jointly won the prize with fellow stem cell researcher John Gurdon for discovering that adult stem cells could be reprogrammed to become pluripotent.

Sickle Cell Anaemia or Sickle Cell Disease as it is commonly called is a hereditary medical condition that causes deadly effects. In this condition, there is abnormality in Haemoglobin (the protein that carries oxygen) causing red blood cells to become rigid and take the shape of a sickle. The cells stick together and block smaller blood vessels causing pain and progressive organ damage.

Sickle Cell Anaemia is highly prevalent in India, mainly in the central and western parts. Each year, over 20 million children in India are born with the condition every year.

Treatment with umbilical cord stem cells

Stem cell transplants are increasingly being considered as a treatment option for children with severe form of the disease. Sickle cell anaemia is one among the 80 conditions that can be treated using umbilical cord stem cells. Expectant parents who already have a child suffering from sickle cell anaemia are advised to preserve the umbilical cord stem cells of to-be born child (provided that the prenatal genetic testing shows that the conceived child does not have the condition). The umbilical cord stem cells of the newborn can be used to treat the older sibling.

Umbilical cord stem cells transplantation scores over bone marrow transplantations as there is reduced chance of graft vs host disease and an increased chance of disease-free survival.

Directed Banking at LifeCell

LifeCell through its non-profit wing LifeCell Foundation runs a Directed Banking program. Through this program, the foundation will provide families with free umbilical cord stem cell banking service for their baby to support the therapy of the baby’s older sibling, suffering from medical conditions that can be treated using stem cells.



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