Our Bureau

Chennai, July 11

APOLLO Hospitals on Monday announced its tie-up with Histostem of the US "for the development of a sustaining and mutually beneficial relationship in cord blood stem cell research and therapy in India."

Histostem and Apollo will establish and operate treatment centres, to be called `Histostem Cell Treatment Centres'.

As part of the tie-up, Histostem will train the doctors and nurses at Apollo for stem cell treatment protocols and develop new treatment protocols with a relevant regulatory approach, according to a press release from Apollo.

What is `stem cell'? Research has shown that the blood generated in the umbilical cord the tube that connects the baby in the womb and the mother is useful for treatment of some diseases the baby may develop later, in its adulthood.

The release lists a number of diseases that can be cured using the stem cells derived from the umbilical cord blood, such as spinal cord injury, chronic renal failure, diabetes mellitus, cerebral infarction, spino-cerebellar degeneration and Buerger's disease.

"The multi-potent stem cell therapy can be compared to a bone marrow transplant, which is known to be a successful treatment for a variety of malignant, autoimmune and genetic diseases," says the release.

Sensing a business opportunity in this, a number of companies have cropped up in the country, most of which collect and promise to preserve the umbilical cord for several decades.

Apollo has joined the bandwagon, in collaboration with the US company, for both preserving the umbilical cord and for stem cell research.

But those who are enthusiastic about stem cells therapy should know this: it is expensive.

Companies that offer to preserve the umbilical cord of new-borns for later use, charge about Rs 80,000 for the service. Also, several doctors in maternity clinics say stem cell therapy is not yet a fully evolved science and its benefits have yet to be proved.

(This article was published in the Business Line print edition dated July 12, 2005)
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