Chennai vets moot umbilical cord bank for animal stem cell therapy

A pioneering initiative to set up an umbilical cord bank exclusively for animals has been proposed by doctors at the Madras Veterinary College.

"Till now there was one such bank and it was for human beings. There were no facilities for animals. The creation of this bank will mean that animals will be able to heal faster. Spine and nerve related injuries can be treated faster especially for dogs and horses," said Dr B Justin William of the department of veterinary surgery and radiology, Madras Veterinary College.

Willam added that the plan was currently under the proposal stage and work would begin the moment it was approved. The college would present a project proposal for a grant of Rs24 crore to the Department of Biotechnology, Govt of India.

The plan up came when Rambo, a nine-month-old boxer, sustained an injury to its spinal cord in an accident. The dog underwent stem cell therapy from a team of doctors of the Madras Veterinary College Teaching Hospital, who harvested stem cells from its own adult stems cells and grafted them to the site of the injury.

The processing of the stem cells was carried out at the NichiIn Centre for Regenerative Medicine, Chennai. This was the first such procedure of its kind to help a dog recover from a spinal cord injury.

According to Dr P Thangaraju, Tamil Nadu Veterinary and Animal Sciences University (TANUVAS) vice-chancellor, an earlier procedure similarly carried out had failed to heal the injury, resulting in the animal's death.

He added, "very soon there will be research done even on bird injuries. People should know that now all regenerative diseases for animals are treatable if an umbilical cord bank is opened. Nerve-related problems take a long time to heal but with the stem cell therapy, it can be faster," he said.

The university will hold an international seminar on the frontiers of stem cell research and biotechnology in the college on 15 -16 July.

According to Vice Chancellor Dr P Thangaraju, more than 300 students from across the country and abroad are expected to participate in the event during which more than 30 research papers on stem cell would be submitted.