India is rapidly growing country with millions of people to feed. To produce more and better quality dairy products and meat, livestock biotechnology is seen as the way of the future, particularly stem cell technology. Livestock stem cells can be genetically manipulated to generate cows that have increased milk yields, larger chickens or buffalo that are disease resistance. However, stem cells from livestock are particularly challenging to work with. Dr. M. S. Chauhan from the National Dairy Research Institute of India invited Dr. West to help train scientist from all over the country to manage these cells. This 15 day intensive stem cell workshop covered everything from isolating stem cells to characterizing new lines. The trained scientists have now returned to their labs with the knowledge needed to start the research process and to make breakthroughs in their own labs.
Dr. West was able to visit many of the facilities at NDRI and IVRI as well as the beautiful sights of India including the Taj Mahal. He was also fortunate to participate in the traditional Festival of Colours and some excellent cricket.
Dr. West gave a talk at the January Business meeting of the ARCS Foundation Atlanta Chapter. He discussed his groundbreaking work in the differentiation of stem cells into sperm cell and the derivation of induced pluripotent stem cells from pigs. He outlined the potential of using stem cell derived germ cells to screen for toxic compounds that may cause developmental abnormalities or potential drugs to treat infertility. He also showed how the pig is a useful large animal model to study stem cell therapies to treat diseases such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease and Cystic Fibrosis. He even had a chance to meet the newest president of Morehouse College Dr. Robert M. Franklin and his wife Dr. Cheryl G. Franklin.