ImageChennai based Jeevan Blood Bank and Research Centre, which offers stem cells for treatment, has opened a public stem cell bank in the city. NCRM (Nichi-In Centre for Regenerative Medicine), the Indo-Japanese joint venture institute carrying out research, will also enter into tie-up with the Jeevan Stem Cell Bank on Monday.

Stem cells are helpful in curing more than 70 medical conditions including blood cancers and other haematological conditions like thalassemia. Sources from the blood bank centre said the not-for-profit project would cost Rs 115 crore over the next five years.

Regarding tie-up, Dr Samuel Abraham, director of NCRM, Chennai, said NCRM and the blood bank centre are forging an alliance to use the expertise and infrastructure of each other's organizations for mutual benefits. The blood bank centre has Cryo-preservation and Immuno-phenotyping facilities and equipment, whereas NCRM has the technology and expertise for stem cell isolation, expansion and clinical application.

The Japan based Centre will support the blood bank by jointly conducting research on expansion of umbilical cord blood stem cells which can benefit many patients with blood cancers.

According to sources from the blood bank, they would collect umbilical cord blood from women immediately after their delivery, harvest stem cells, test for transmissible infections, store and ultimately release safe compatible units to anyone who needed them. The target is to collect about 40,000 units of stem cells in five years, the sources added.

They said the project was started with a donation of cord blood from twenty women and the bank hopes to collect and store not less than thirty thousand units of stem cells. The cord blood helps to treat children suffering from thallessemia and leukaemia. Every year, 7,000 to 10,000 new thallessemics are being identified who need transplants. Similarly, every year 7,000 acute leukaemics are identified, but fifty percent of them are having chances of relapse.

Recently both the institutes have jointly started storage of autologous bone marrow stem cells from patients who need BM stem cell applications, which is the first such service in India.

This new collaboration will also pave the way to establish a public umbilical cord blood registry in India and also to get expert advise from Japanese haematologists who are already using allogenic umbilical cord blood in treating blood cancers, Dr. Abraham said.