Mohamed Rela [ ] : Medicine
Dr Mohamed Rela, a UK-based Liver transplant surgeon of international fame and Indian origin. At 47 years, he is considered to be among the top liver transplant surgeons of the world. Dr Rela has a record of 800 liver transplants against his name, including the one preformed on his youngest patient ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â‚¬Â? a five-day-old Irish boy, which won him entry into the Guinness Book of Records in 2000.
The surgeon, who heads one of the four top-notch transplant teams at the King's College and Hospitals, London, has pioneered the `split liver' transplant surgery which involves the division of a healthy donor organ to ensure that two patients' lives are saved. In addition, he is an expert at live donor transplants.
However, the journey to the top for this native of Mayiladuthurai village in Tamil Nadu has been a rough one. A student of the well known Kalakshetra School, Chennai, and later a graduate in medicine from The Stanley Medical College, Chennai, Dr Rela says he always wanted to be a doctor, especially a surgeon. However, in Chennai he had to wait for two years before he could specialise in surgery. So, after an MS from Stanley, he went to the UK, where he did an MS from Edinburgh and also got an FRCS by 1988.
For five to six years Dr Rela worked as a surgeon in various hospitals in the UK before he made it to the prestigious King's College and Hospital in 1994. "The first liver transplant was done here in 1989 and I was really fortunate to enter the field and King's College at the right time. It gave me the opportunity to develop new techniques. I have now worked for over 10 years in the field of liver transplantation at the largest liver transplant programme in Europe, where over 190 liver transplant operations are performed every year, " he says.
Dr Rela started the successful programme of split liver transplantation at King's College Hospital and popularised it in the country. King's now has the largest experience in the world for split liver transplantation with results not matched by other major international units. It is also the only centre in the UK performing living related liver transplantation.
Having published more than 100 scientific papers and trained a large number of surgeons who have set up the liver transplant programme around the world, Dr Rela is now concentrating on developing techniques which would help do away with liver transplant. These include, cell therapy and stem cells. The third area is research on new immunosuppressant drugs, which will be better tolerated by the human body, and therefore reduce the rate of rejection.
In cell therapy, the thinking is that instead of replacing the liver, a single cell injected into the recipient would slowly grow into a normal liver. Experiments have been conducted from foetal cells, cadaver cell and even cells from certain animals like dogs, but there are ethical questions attached to these procedures.
Stem cell therapy, on the other hand, is an area that needs to be more intensively researched before it becomes reality, says Dr Rela. The surgeon believes in sharing of expertise, especially among developing countries. He has been personally involved in building up the infrastructure in some units apart from performing operations at different centres.
Dr Rela's association with India has increased in recent times after his collaborative efforts at the Hyderabad-based Global Hospitals, which has established a full-fledged liver transplant facility. The Technology Development Board (TDB) venture fund, under the Department of Science and Technology (DST), has provided a funding of Rs 10 crore. During the last one year, Dr Rela has been the main driving force at the Global Hospitals, conducting liver transplants in Hyderabad.
Dr. Rela was called on to treat Pramod Mahajan of BJP.
The Hindu Business Line