In the afternoon of 3rd August 2020, an online seminar on ‘Stem cell Research’ was held by Dr. H. Purushothama, M.Sc., Ph.D., Director of Neurocyte Stem Cell Research Centre, Bengaluru.
This session attracted over 50 students from both CMR ITPL & HRBR.
The session kicked off by a presentation on Biotechnology, followed by stem cells in detail. He explained the term Biotechnology which is the manipulation of living organisms and organic material to serve human needs. An example of its application in the production of alcohol or the yeast used in bread baking. Another example is beneficial microorganisms that are available in the market like probiotics, a helpful bacterium that is good for our digestive system, for example, Yakult. The broad areas of research in biotechnology are medicine, Food sciences, environmental science, Agricultural science, etc.
Pioneers of Biotechnology:
The speaker provided an overview of the pioneers of Biotechnology. He gave an insight into the leading scientists and their discoveries who had played an important role in the areas of research in Biotechnology. Anthony Van Leeuwen Hook, Robert Hook, Gregor Mendel, Louis Pasteur, James Watson, Francis Crick, and Paul Berg to name a few.
- Anthony Van Leeuwen Hook created the simple microscope and discovered bacteria
- Robert Hook’s compound microscope which uses multiple lenses.
- Gregor Mendel, the first to conduct genetics experiments using pea plants to observe the passing down of genetic traits from one generation to another.
- Louis Pasteur discovered the role of bacteria in spoilage and scientific basis for fermentation and the first to create rabies vaccine and many other vaccines were followed.
- The English men James Watson & Francis Crick discovered the double-helix structure of DNA using X-ray photographs. which is the base for the high-end technology – real-time PCR-polymerase chain reaction which is also being used in the pandemic of COVID-19 as it can detect even a single cell virus present in the body.
- Paul Berg is the one who developed recombinant DNA technology, a method for insertion of genetic material from one organism into another. This is used to treat genetic disorders.
Our Life Story and stem cells
In the seminar, the main focus was on stem cells. You are going to read many things about stem cells which you know or may not know. Like, the types of stem cells, sources of it in our body, the various techniques used, and the various areas of treatment by using it.
He explained about the stem cells and its division, which needs to be maintained in our body and helps in the replacement of the dead or damaged cells throughout our life. He also well explained the types of stem cells and the sources. The types of stem cells are Hemopoietic stem cells, that gives rise to different types of blood cells and Non- Hemopoietic stem cells, every cell other than blood cells comes under this. Among the different sources of stem cells, the Cord blood & cord tissue are a rich source of them.
It was amazing to hear that shortly after the birth of the baby, the blood is collected from the umbilical cord tissue which is a rich source of stem cells. This process is called Cord blood banking. Later even after the collection, the tissue is stored by the method of cryopreservation where the cells & tissues are stored in liquid nitrogen under -196°C.
Blood collection from the umbilical cord
Peripheral blood collection
Stem cells are also present in peripheral blood. The normally flowing blood in our body also has around 0.001% to 0.01% of stem cells. These stem cells are extracted using an apheresis machine which is generally present in blood banks.
Stem cells collection from peripheral blood
You might have heard of platelet donation during dengue cases and the process is that only the platelets are taken out and the rest is returned to the donor. Similarly, for the stem cell collection, there will be two pricks done on the arms, one on each arm. From one arm the blood is drawn and it goes into the apheresis machine where centrifugation process occurs inside it thus separating the red blood, white blood cells and the plasma. For stem cells, there is a different program, where we collect only the stem cells and the rest of which is red blood cells, plasma, etc, is pumped back into the donor through the other arm.
Availability of Stem Cells in our body
Stem cells are also present in our bone marrow. We extract them from the iliac crest and is called bone marrow aspiration. A Jamshidi needle is pierced into the bone and the blood is drawn using a syringe. This is called bone marrow aspiration, where stem cell from the hip bone or the lilac crest is collected. If one does not want to undergo bone marrow aspiration then the next option is Adipose tissue or fat tissue which is a major and rich source of stem cells in our body. It’s like a stem cell reserve in our body.
Either by aspirating the fat or by peeling the fat flaps, the fat tissue is collected by using certain enzymes to break the cell membrane or other proteins that hold the stem cells. After the enzymatic treatment, they are placed in tubes where it settles and segregates with the first layer of the yellow color of fat followed by the red color of buffer saline solution and lastly at the bottom a very dark red which is stem cells.
You will be amazed to note that stem cells can be extracted from our teeth as well. The number of stem cells from the tooth is very less and there is a possibility of it getting contaminated when they get in contact with the bacteria and fungus present in the mouth. We are unable to use these stem cells for any research purpose as its very minimal.
Stem Cell Banking
Stem cell banking follows certain procedures for the processing of stem cells which also helps to obtain separately, specific components of blood. There are various stem cell Banking methods available in India today they are Umbilical Cord Blood Banking, Bone Marrow Banking, Adipose Tissue Banking, and so on.
Regenerative medicine Treatment
Certain tissues in our body degenerate as a part of aging. If there are damages to tissues in our body and are unable to replace the damaged tissue, in those cases we use the technology of regenerative medicine using stem cells. Regenerative medicine is a treatment in which stem cells are induced to differentiate into the specific cell type required to repair damaged or destroyed cell populations or tissues. For example, stem cells are used in the treatments related to Kidney failure, heart failure, etc.
The stem cells are also used in different fields for clinical or therapeutic use, like in Orthopedics, Vascular disease, neurology, Autoimmune disease. Some of the diseases that can be cured using stem cells are Myocardial infarction, Buerger’s disease, osteoarthritis, liver diseases, Spinal cord injury and so on.
Mesenchymal stem cells
Mesenchymal stem cells represent a group of non – hematopoietic stem cells which is present in various tissues in our body. They are plastic adherent and have a fibroblastic spindle-shaped morphology. They have the potential to differentiate into Osteocytes, Adipocytes and Chondrocytes. They participate in repairing tissues such as bone, cartilage, muscle, tendon and fat. The potency of Mesenchymal stem cells has made them proper candidates for stem cell-based therapies
By using Mesenchymal stem cells, we can create certain tissues through tissue engineering technology. To keep a group of cells or tissues together, a binding agent is required. Apart from chemical methods, Tissue engineering technology also makes use of Biological membranes or human collagen like the amniotic membrane. Amniotic membrane is a thin layer of placenta having a huge source of human collagen which is used in ophthalmologic surgeries and in covering wounds. After the surgery of an eye or upon a severe wound, human collagen is used in its dressing to avoid secondary infections.
Artificial skin –Skin grafts
Skin grafts are a widely used technology for testing cosmetic products for the safety of human use. Artificial skin or skin grafts which are made up of Mesenchymal stem cells are used to test cosmetic products for any harmful effect on the human skin. Skin grafts are also used in testing various types of plastic products available in the market.
Platelet Rich Plasma Technology
Another technology is Platelet Rich Plasma (PRP) – in this technology, we take the peripheral blood around 10 to 20 ml which is then subjected to centrifugation and only the platelets are collected mainly because they have rich growth factors.
Some of the multiple growth factors are:
Fibroblast Growth Factor (FGF)
Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor (VEGF)
Epidermal Growth Factor (EGF)
These growth factors play a major role in the regeneration of tissues of organs. Stem cells and Platelet Rich Plasma technology together work better in the treatment of baldness to increase the density of hair and in pain management and healing – like joint pain.
Immunotherapy: Dendritic Cell Vaccine
Stem cells are also used in cancer treatment which helps them to prevent the recurrence of the disease. The stem cells are collected from cancer patients before they undergo chemotherapy or radiation. The tumor cells are surgically removed from the cancer patients. After the chemotherapy or radiations, the stored stem cells, on undergoing the required processing, are put back to the patient’s body by way of dendritic cells as vaccines. Activated T cell treatment is also used to improve the immunity of cancer patients. There is also natural killer cell treatment which is used to prevent the recurrence of cancer.
Bone Marrow Rescue is another method used in cancer treatment. The bone marrow stem cells are collected before the Chemotherapy or radiations because the patient’s entire immunity is very much down after it and is then given back to the patient. To prevent these stem cells from the toxicity of having undergone Chemotherapy or radiations. The Bone Marrow rescue treatment is used in curing many diseases.
The laboratory where they usually work:
We were also shown a few pictures of the Neurocyte Stem cell Research Centre.
The CGMP Laboratory is a laboratory where the stem cells are handled under stringent conditions to avoid any contamination. The following pictures are of the CGMP Laboratory of the Neurocyte Stem cell Research Centre:
The cryogenic Storage device where the stem cells are collected and stored. The Cryogenic Storage of the Neurocyte Stem cell Research Centre:
At the end of the session, we were given time to ask our queries and clear our doubts.
Thus, stem cells have the power to be developed into various organs in our body. It can be used to treat and cure diseases. There are various application areas that are effective for stem cells. It’s very important to realize the real potential of stem cells. We can conclude that Stem cells are highly promising and have greater potential for medical breakthroughs.
Well, in the end, we can say that it was a very informative and thought-provoking session with easy to understand explanations by Dr. H. Purushothama. We are very grateful to Dr. H. Purushothama for taking out time from his busy schedule to join us and also, our lovely teachers at CMR for giving us this wonderful opportunity to learn something new every time.
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