Stem cell ther­apy for men­tally ill? Docs di­vided

DNA Sunday (Mumbai) - - FRONT PAGE - Tanya Almel cor­re­spon­dent@ dnain­dia. net

Could stem cell ther­apy im­prove the qual­ity of life of in­tel­lec­tu­ally- dis­abled peo­ple? Doc­tors from Neu­roGen Brain and Spine In­sti­tute say that this ther­apy is a rel­a­tively new and in­no­va­tive one that helps to bet­ter the qual­ity of life of pa­tients af­fected with autism, cere­bral palsy and other such neu­ro­log­i­cal dis­or­ders. They claim that com­mu­ni­ca­tion skills, learn­ing abil­i­ties and other such qual­i­ties could im­prove through stem cell ther­apy.

Dr Alok Sharma, di­rec­tor, Neu­roGen Brain and Spine In­sti­tute, said: “Stem cell ther­apy is emerg­ing as one of the newer treat­ment op­tions for con­di­tions like autism, cere­bral palsy, men­tal re­tar­da­tion, mus­cu­lar dytro­phy and other neu­ro­log­i­cal dis­or­ders. This treat­ment has the po­ten­tial to re­pair the dam­aged neu­ral tis­sue at the molec­u­lar, struc­tural and func­tional level.”

The par­ents of Prat­i­bha Ka­math, a 26- year- old woman di­ag­nosed with autism, are very happy with the re­sults ob­tained by stem cell ther­apy ( SCT). She is on the path of self de­pen­dence, and the credit for it goes to this treat­ment, Prat­i­bha’s par­ents said.

“She was di­ag­nosed at the age of two years. We tried al­lopa­thy treat­ment, home­opa- thy treat­ment and reiki heal­ing for Prat­i­bha be­fore com­ing to Neu­roGen. Af­ter hear­ing about this treat­ment, we grasped this op­por­tu­nity and started the pro­ce­dure in Septem­ber 2014. Now, her com­mu­ni­ca­tion skills are bet­ter, she has learned Bharat­natyam and has per­formed on stage in front of al­most 300 peo­ple, and she has also learned to play the si­tar. She has be­come quite in­de­pen­dent,” said her par­ents.

There have been quite a few cases like Prat­i­bha’s, show­ing a sig­nif­i­cant im­prove­ment in the qual­ity of life of such pa­tients.

Dr Nan­dani Gokulchan­dran, deputy di­rec­tor and head of med­i­cal ser­vices of Neu­roGen, said, “Be­fore this ther­apy, brain dam­age dur­ing birth was ir­re­versible. The causes could be ge­netic or oth­er­wise. How­ever, SCT helps re­pair dam­aged cells and, with the help of other re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion treat­ments, it im­proves the qual­ity of life of such pa­tients.”

How­ever some ex­perts do not agree with such meth­ods of treat­ment.

Dr Samir Dal­wai, na­tional chair­per­son, In­dian Acad­emy of Pae­di­atrics, said, “There is no ev­i­dence that stem cell ther­apy is ben­e­fi­cial for autism. What works is multi- dis­ci­plinary doc­u­mented and pro­gramme- based de­vel­op­men­tal in­ter­ven­tion.”

Parul Kumtha, pres­i­dent, Fo­rum for Autism, too, shared sim­i­lar views.

“There is not enough to prove the ef­fi­cacy of this ther­apy. There­fore, any fam­ily opt­ing for this should be in­formed of the ther­apy and the pa­tients should be of­fered this treat­ment for free or the clients should be of­fered money for par­tic­i­pat­ing in such re­search, as it is not yet FDA ap­proved” Kumtha said.

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