BENGALURU:Full-fledged treatment for cancer and bone-related ailments using stem-cell within the state could soon be a possibility if a plan of a world renowned surgeon from the state succeeds.
Dr A A Shetty is a highly decorated orthopedic surgeon and professor based in the UK who won the ‘Nobel’ equivalent of surgery called the Hunterian Medal, this year. In his aim to bring about next level cancer and orthopedic treatment, he has already set up two ‘big’ stem cell research labs - one in Dharwad and another in Mangaluru, a few years back at a cost of around 20 to 25 crore. A hospital that will treat stem-related ailments has also been envisaged at a total cost of around Rs 200 to 250 crore.
Setting up the labs is part of a three-step goal. “After setting up the labs, the next step will be producing the stem cells, whether it be for bone ailments, treatment for cervical cancer etc. Then the third step will be the application of these stem cells through our hospital or through tie-ups with other hospitals. I have already received the funding for setting up the hospital,” says Dr Shetty in an interaction with CE in Bengaluru. He is originally from a small village called Asode in Udupi district.
The lab in Dharwad is located at SDM College and is being backed by Shri Dharmasthala Manjunatheshwara and will be primarily working on blood cancer and thalassemia treatment. The one in Mangaluru is located at K.S. Hegde Medical Academy (KSHEMA) and is backed by the NITTE group. It will work on cartilage and bone fracture treatments.“The effort is no doubt for profit. We will charge the rich but the poor will be treated for free at our hospital,” he says.
Already, Shetty has recruited a number of top stem cell researchers from the state who are presently abroad. “I have recruited researchers who were doing their postdoc studies in Japan, South Korea. Presently there are four of them working at the two labs,” he says. Shetty ultimately wants to settle in Karnataka and hopes to achieve his goal by 2020. The third stage of his plan also requires expertise in various cutting edge technologies such as robotics, computing and he will also be recruiting people who specialize in these fields.
Shetty also hopes to make cancer vaccination a possibility. Giving an example of cervical cancer, Shetty says, “Few cancers can be vaccinated. Cervical cancer, one of the most rampant cancers, is one of them. We will use stems derived from iPS cell. In the UK, the vaccine cost 60 pounds. Our aim is to develop it and sell it at a very low cost, as low as Rs 100,” he adds. Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells or iPS Cells are derived from the blood and skiwwn cells and can be reprogrammed to provide an unlimited source of any type of human cell.
Stem cells for Arthritis
In 2013, Shetty devised a minimally invasive procedure to treat arthritis using stem cells. When the cartilage between the bones begin to erode, the bones rub against each other and cause severe pain. Shetty treated a patient suffering from knee arthritis. He drilled a hole into the patient’s knee bone and released stem cells that could grow into the cartilage. In all, the procedure lasted just 30 minutes. Shetty has already done as many as two dozen such procedures in India.
Shetty also says that he wants to develop and provide integrated trauma services. “If a patient survives the ‘golden hour then he/she can be saved. Majority die in the first hour of trauma. My integrated services will have specialized suits that will help reduce blood loss and will have other know-how. I am negotiating with the International Rotary on this,” he adds. This may be established either in Mangalore or Bangalore.
Dr Vishal Rao, head and neck oncology surgeon at HCG Hospitals says that stem cells research is in the mid-stage of development and has great potential to grow in India. “The IT and BT ministry is already taking great steps by encouraging startups on these lines, starting various schemes,” he says. Vishal also pointed out that a number of private organizations, hospitals and individuals like those like Dr Shetty are also investing in the field.