StemCyte India bats for public banking of cord-blood stem cell

Article courtesy Business Standard.


Global cord blood player StemCyte India is set to beef up operations in India to promote public banking of Umbilical Cord Blood (UCB) stem cells.

StemCyte Inc USA chairman Kenneth Giacen today visited the city. The company has its sole UCB storage facility in India at the Apollo hospital here.

“At present, we are having 1,000 units of UCB as public inventory. We are aiming to build at least 5,000 units in India, which lags behind in donating UCB, which can be used to save others,” said Giacen.

UCB stem cells are acquired from the umbilical cord of a new-born child and stored at freezing temperatures for future use. They can be used in treating thalassemia, cancer, etc.

Though private banking of UCB for a fee is becoming popular, the concept of public inventory, where the cord blood is donated for free, is yet to gain momentum, said company COO Deepak Chhabra.

“There are roughly 8 to 10 firms in India which are into private banking, which can cost you. But, we are the only player offering public banking, which can save others and no money is charged by us,” he said.

“Who ever agrees to offer the UCB of their child, is given a membership card, which allows them to access UCB of other donors from our public bank,” said Chhabra.

“Gujarat is a hub of thalassemia patients. Though it can be cured using someone else’s UCB stem cells, we are only having 1,000 UCB public inventory with us in India, which is not enough,” he said.

“For those who don’t go for paid private banking, the umbilical cord is nothing but a bio-waste, which is thrown away. We are here to make an appeal that it can be used to save others and in return, it automatically gives safety cover to donor’s child too,” said Chhabra.

Hwang wins US patent for human stem cells

Original Source: Korea Times

Hwang Woo-suk

Hwang Woo-suk

Scientist Hwang Woo-suk has been granted patents for human embryonic stem cells and the related technology in the United States, according to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), Tuesday.

It marks the second time for the veterinarian to win patents outside Korea ― he received ones from the Canadian government in 2011 after several years of efforts in some 20 countries.

The U.S. patents on the cell line at issue, dubbed NT-1, are expected to give a fresh momentum to Hwang who is striving to resume his research on cloned human stem cells, which have great therapeutic potential.

“The USPTO acknowledged the technological edge of Hwang’s team, which means something in consideration of the global scientific leadership of the U.S.,” said Prof. Hyun Sang-hwan at Chungbuk National University, one of Hwang’s closest aides.

“Against this backdrop, I sincerely hope the government will allow Hwang to restart work on cloned human embryos. It’s a pity that a scientist with very advanced technology cannot work on them.”

Hwang and his lieutenants created NT-1 in 2003 and claimed that it was the world’s first stem cell batch extracted from cloned human embryos. Back then, it was much-touted breakthrough ― the illustrious journal Science featured it on its front cover in 2004.

But Hwang suffered setbacks as he was found to have doctored data from experiments on patient-specific stem cells, which were also printed by the peer-reviewed U.S. journal in 2005.

The authenticity of NT-1 also came under suspicions and some claimed that it was generated via asexual reproduction, not cloning, to further shrink the standing of the former Seoul National University professor.

In the end, Science retracted both papers.

Worse, Hwang had to go through court action because he was indicted for violating the Bioethics Law and embezzlement. The Supreme Court is currently reviewing his case.

He was cleared of some charges in his trial and at appeal. In addition, Hwang’s credence was not completely gone because the world’s first cloned dog that was born in 2005 and created by his team proved to be the real deal.

Arguing NT-1 is indeed a clone, Hwang has tried to resume his work on human stem cells but the government has yet to allow him.

An official at the Sooam Biotech Research Foundation, headed by Hwang, said that the U.S. patents would encourage other countries to issue reciprocal ones.



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