Stem cell research has been in the news for all the wrong reasons, these last few weeks. It has been alleged that the results of a landmark 2005 paper on production of tailored embryonic stem cells were fabricated. A nine-member panel from Seoul National University that has been examining the work of celebrated scientist Hwang Woo-suk, has stated that the data in 2005 was intentionally fabricated. Hwang is best known to the international public for leading a team that created the worlds first cloned dog, Snuppy.
However, there is also some good news on the horizon. Australian researchers have achieved a major breakthrough as far as plant stem cell research is concerned. Scientists from the Max Planck Institute for Developmental Biology have uncovered a feedback mechanism, involving a growth-enhancing hormone and a regulatory protein, which controls the number of stem cells the plant produces.
Unlike the stem cells of animals, which can only produce specific kinds of tissue after the animal is past its embryonic stage, plant stem cells retain their totipotency and, therefore plants continue growing over many years, developing new organs. But this ability comes at a price. If the number of meristematic stem cells increases too quickly, then there could be uncontrolled growth, similar to cancer. On the other hand, if the stem cell pool shrinks too quickly, the plant could have stunted growth.
Meanwhile in India, the countrys first exclusive stem cell transplant center will come up in Chennai, Tamil Nadu, next year. Per Abhayakumar, CEO of LifeCell (Indias first umbilical cord stem cell bank), the center would be a state-of-the-art facility meant exclusively for stem cell transplants. In a related development, a world-class state-of-the-art facility for biotech research and development will be inaugurated shortly in the eastern state of Orissa, at Bhubaneshwar. Major objectives of the organization are to provide research tools at a reasonable price and to promote academic and industry collaborations.
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