If the environment is more encouraging India could certainly become one of the strongest players in stem cell research, says Sujata Kelkar Shetty an researcher in biochemistry.

The Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) and the Department of Biotechnology (DBT) have jointly issued a set of comprehensive guidelines that are comparable to those in the UK. In this environment of sensible ethical regulation there is a strong interest in the Indian public research institutes for the pursuit of stem cell research, both fundamental and clinical.

Fundamental research is being conducted by scientists at several institutions including Dr Panicker, at the National Center of Biological Sciences, Dr Rangarajan, at the Indian Institute of Science and Dr Maneesha Inamdar at JNC to name but a few.

Research and development of stem cells holds tremendous promise. Stem cells are in use in clinical trials to treat diseases as diverse as heart disease, diabetes, and Parkinson’s. They are also being used in the process of drug discovery and in understanding fundamental cellular developmental processes.

We certainly have our bright spots when it comes to research and clinical use of stem cells. However, we also have our limitations that need to be addressed if India is to be become a powerhouse of stem cell research.

If the government were to provide tax and other benefits to biotech companies and private hospitals pursuing stem cell research, then that would promote a greater involvement. A focus on stem cell research by the ICMR and DBT could result in larger funds being allocated to stem cell research in public institutions.

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