Asia Leading in Stem Cell Research
Asia is presently leading the world in stem cell research. Ever since two scientists, Sir John Gurdon from the United Kingdom and Shinya Yamanaka from Japan, shared the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine 2012 for their work with stem cells, stem cell research has had a huge following in Southeast Asia.
According to Crispin Aslog, writing in Asian Science Magazine, while scientists are excited about the potential impact of stem cells on regenerative medicine, few human trials have taken place.
In Southeast Asia, Singapore now leads the way in stem cell research. It has set up Biopolis, a biomedical research center that does stem-cell science and organized a stem cell consortium with the aim of ensuring a coordinated and focused research and development program on stem cells. The aim is to translate basic research into clinically viable therapies for diseases.
Thailand is becoming another leader in the region on stem cell research. Crispin reports that, unlike Singapore’s government-run funding and management system, Thailand adopted a free enterprise model, with funding coming from various public and private sources. In 2012, three Thai universities reported achievements in stem cell research. Chulalongkorn University announced that it was the first in the country to produce human embryonic stem cells. Meanwhile, Police General Hospital developed adult stem cells to treat arthritis sufferers and is now conducting a clinical trial on 60 arthritis patients aged 45 to 60. The trial is expected to be completed next year.
Researchers at Mahidol University’s Siriraj Hospital claim to have discovered a way to extract a pure sample of stem cells from human amniotic fluid. They anticipate that these cells could be used to treat conditions such as arthritis. Thailand is also undertaking stem cell banking. Chulalongkorn University has set up Thailand’s first embryonic stem cell bank. In addition, private facilities such as THAI StemLife, Cryoviva Thailand and CordLife have opened to store stem cells from the roughly 800, 000 babies born each year in Thailand. In Indonesia, stem cell therapy has been used mainly for cardiovascular disorders. In 2011, 20 patients underwent treatment at Cipto Mangunkusumo National Hospital.
The most popular stem cell research, at present, has to do with cosmetic applications to reverse the impacts of aging. In the Philippines, stem cell therapy has attracted the attention of celebrities who want to maintain their youthful looks. One of the first people in the country to have this experimental, unproven treatment was former Philippine president, Joseph Estrada, who admitted in a televised interview that he had undergone anti-aging stem cell therapy.