India's top public healthcare establishment, the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) in Delhi, is in talks with the Ohio State University (OSU) to set up the country's first comprehensive regenerative medicine centre that will open up avenues in research and development and introduce revolutionary techniques.
Regenerative medicine, a broad subject, deals with the "process of creating living, functional tissues to repair or replace tissue or organ function lost due to age, disease, damage or congenital defects".
Proposed to be established on a small scale, initially on the ninth floor of the newly-inaugurated Convergence Block at AIIMS, the proposed hub will come up in partnership with the American public research varsity's Centre for Regenerative Medicine and Cell-Based Therapies (CRMCBT), known for its pioneering efforts in the field.
CRMCBT director Chandan Sen said the expertise and advisory will be provided by OSU, which ranks second in the US on industry-sponsored research among public schools.
"This venture will introduce a new discipline of medicine to India's premier seat of academic medicine and CRMCBT will provide expertise and advisory. There is a substantial need for regenerative medicine in India," Sen told IANS in an email interaction.
Sen is a tenured professor of surgery and executive director of the varsity's Comprehensive Wound Center.
Regenerative medicine involves injection of stem cells or progenitor cells (cell therapies), the induction of regeneration by biologically active molecules administered alone or as a secretion by infused cells and transplantation of in vitro or lab grown organs and tissues.
Amit K. Dinda, a professor at the AIIMS department of pathology, who is spearheading the project, said the focus would be on amalgamating various disciplines including stem cell technology, biomedical science, tissue engineering and material science.
"The demand is huge in India... one example is burns and acid attack victims. Regenerative medicine is a broad subject and we are working towards an alliance of physicians, surgeons and scientists," Dinda told IANS on the phone.
It will be funded by the department of biotechnology (DBT) and the Indian Council for Medical Research (ICMR).
Dinda explained that the establishment of such a centre would also foster the debut of technologies such as 3D bioprinting (an offshoot of three-dimensional printing that allows researchers to build an organ) in India.
"In addition, wound management, as in the case of bedsores and diabetic foot ulcers, is another part of regenerative medicine and that will be part of the comprehensive centre," said Dinda, also president of the Indian Society of Renal and Transplant Pathology.
In a prelude to iron-out details, experts from both sides will meet at the maiden India Health Sciences Innovation Conference jointly organised by OSU and AIIMS from January 15 to 18 next year where regenerative medicine experts from across the world will gather.
Prior to the main event, as part of this partnership, a two-day workshop on regenerative medicine will be hosted by AIIMS January 12-13, 2015.
"The workshops and discussions will provide insights into how we can go about the centre. There are plans to sign an agreement with OSU on this around the time of the conference. Also, we are working on drafts to submit to the ministry concerned," Dinda said.
According to Sen, the conference chair, the mammoth event has three specific goals - to foster industry partnership, academic partnership and career development.
AIIMS director Mahesh C Misra said skin-cover regeneration for burn victims would be of "immediate" interest for the hub at the outset.
"We are in touch with them (OSU) for the last three years. India, as a fast developing country, needs this discipline and we have to learn from developing countries.
"The field is in its infancy in the country and the scope is far and wide. So initially we will start it at a smaller scale within AIIMS and will gradually extend it," Misra told IANS on the phone.