Prof JP Sharma VC, SKUAST-Jammu inaugurated Animal Stem Cells Lab

Pashu Sandesh, 29th June 2020

Prof. J.P. Sharma, Vice-Chancellor, SKUAST-Jammu, paid his first visit to Faculty of Veterinary Science, SKUAST-J, R.S. Pura, Jammu and also inaugurated the Laboratory of Animal Stem Cells, established under the funds provided by the Department of Biotechnology, Ministry of Science and Technology, Government of India, New Delhi. The inaugural ceremony was hosted by Dr Neelesh Sharma, Senior Assistant Professor and Project Coordinator of the same lab, functioning in the Department of Veterinary Medicine, Faculty of Veterinary Science., SKUAST-J, R.S. Pura, Jammu. This is the first kind of laboratory in Jammu di vison, which is working on livestock stem cells and nanoparticles based research to develop the new therapeutic protocols for the management of diseases in dairy animals. Vice-Chancellor showed keen interest in the work going on under the leadership of Dr Neelesh Sharma. He also appreciated the work and emphasized to disseminate the knowledge to the farmers' community. He inaugurated the lab and interacted with the project fellows of various projects undergoing in the lab and directed them to work for the betterment of the farmers and transfer the technology from their Lab to farmers field. His discussion was mainly focused on increasing the farmers' income by providing technical knowledge and help related to the various animal husbandry practices. The Vice-Chancellor was accompanied by Prof. S.K. Gupta, Director Extension and Prof. M.S. Bhadwal, Dean, Faculty of Veterinary Science. 

Dr Neelesh told that we are working on the various aspects of stem cells based research in dairy animals. His lab is also working on the development of nano-particles based intramammary products for the treatment of mastitis, which is the costliest disease of dairy animals and causing heavy economic losses to the farmers. Dr Neelesh Sharma has done a PhD. from South Korea under the ICAR International Fellowship, Government of India. During his PhD programme, he has worked on stem cell research in livestock. He has published many papers on stem cell research in various peer-reviewed journals. 

Stem cell research in veterinary medicine is an emerging field of research in the diagnosis and management of various diseases conditions. In veterinary medicine, it is continuously evolving rapidly both experimentally and clinically. There is a lot of work on stem cells has been in medical sciences but very limited work in veterinary medicine in developed countries only. Over the past decades, great attention has been acquired by stem cells research which has emerged as an area of major interest of scientist/researchers/clinicians due to potential in the regenerative medicine application. Small and large animal species serve as valuable models for preclinical evaluation of stem cell applications in human beings. 

Stem cell research in veterinary medicine has many opportunities. The therapeutic application of stem cell-based technologies in veterinary medicine was first used by Herthel in 2002 to treat equine suspensory ligament desmitis. Almost all animal tissues may be repaired or regenerated by the direct action of stem cells, which presents a high potential for multiplication and differentiation. Stem cells provide an unprecedented hope in the treatment of many debilitating diseases of animals and have enormous use in the regenerative therapy, production of pharmaceutical proteins in the milk, animal cloning, drug discovery, gene targeting, transgenic animal, chimaera production etc. Stem cells can differentiate into one cell type or multiple cell types because of their characteristic property of plasticity. 

Clinical mastitis has a severe impact on udder tissue and permanently damage mammary parenchyma. Moreover, it significantly reduces animal value and milk production. 

Mastitis always causes certain irreversible destruction of milk-producing tissue which leads to a decrease in milk production. The high incidence, the low cure rate of this highly economic and sometimes deadly disease is alarming for the dairy sector as well as policymakers. Bovine mammary epithelial cells (MECs) and their stem cells are very important in milk production and bioengineering. Mammary stem/progenitor cells may be therapeutically adapted to correct the structural/cytological defects in the bovine udder due to mastitis. Dr Neelesh Sharma is running a DBT funded project on goat mammary epithelial/ stem cells. Dr Sharma told that if we will get a success the in the settlement of mammary stem cells in the mammary tissue niche then we will have more hope in the effective management of mastitis through stem cell-based therapy.

Other cells such as mesenchymal stem cells (MSC) based approaches are currently used for the treatment of osteoarthritis, tendon, ligament, or cartilage/joint injuries in horses or dogs. MSCs also have an immunomodulatory effect. 

We have many challenges and fundamental questions to answer in the application of stem cells in veterinary medicine such as 1) Whether the stem cells can settle and grow in the targeted niche or not? 2) What is the optimal tissue source of stem cells for each clinical application? 3) How many stem cells are needed to effectuate regeneration? 4) What are the best means to deliver the cells? 5) Is there a requirement for co-delivery of growth factors to direct the function of the implanted cells? After thorough research, we need to find out the answer to these questions. The biggest obstacles preventing more frequent use of stem cell therapy are access and cost.

However, his major field of work in mastitis and clean milk production. He is working on mastitis in dairy animals for more than 18 years. He told to the Pashu Sandesh correspondent that mastitis is a serious problem not only for animal health but also for human health. As this disease has a very high prevalence in dairy animals and has major hurdle in clean milk production. We have proud that India has the highest milk production but still have a few challenges in regard to milk production per animal and milk quality. As we know that India has an average milk production 5.26 kg/day/animal (as per the recent census of 2019), while Israel has about 40 Kg. As per recent data, we have a target of about 300 million ton of milk production by 2023-24, which is only possible by managing the udder health and reproductive problems. Dr Sharma told that being veterinarians we should aware of the farmers regarding this deadly disease to control their economic losses and increase the farmers' income.