Govt curbs ran­dom use of stem cells for ther­a­peu­tic us­age

Hindustan Times (Lucknow) - - NATION - Rhythma Kaul let­ters@hin­dus­tan­times.com

NEW DELHI: In or­der to curb the mis­use of stem cell treat­ments, the In­dian Coun­cil for Med­i­cal Re­search (ICMR) and the Depart­ment of Biotech­nol­ogy (DBT) re­leased up­dated na­tional guide­lines on Wed­nes­day that re­strict the use of stem cell ther­apy.

For adults, stem cells can be used for ther­a­peu­tic pur­poses in dif­fer­ent cases of leukemia (cancer of the blood) and lym­phomas (cancer of the lym­phatic sys­tem), solid tu­mours such as germ cell, and non-can­cer­ous dis­eases of the blood such as se­vere aplas­tic anaemia, sickle cell dis­ease, among oth­ers.

In chil­dren, the ther­apy is also per­mit­ted in dif­fer­ent types of blood can­cers, solid tu­mours of brain, bones, etc, and non-can­cer­ous dis­eases such as tha­lassemia ma­jor, ju­ve­nile rheuma­toid arthri­tis, and os­teopet­ro­sis, among oth­ers. At the mo­ment, cer­tain med­i­cal prac­ti­tion­ers of­fer stem cell ther­apy for con­di­tions even out­side their spe­cial­ity and for con­di­tions where there has been no proven cure through this treat­ment.

“The 2017 guide­lines re­it­er­ate that any stem cell use in pa­tients, other than that ... for ap­proved in­di­ca­tions, is in­ves­ti­ga­tional at present... ev­ery use of stem cells in pa­tients out­side an ap­proved clin­i­cal trial is un­eth­i­cal and shall be con­sid­ered as mal­prac­tice,” says the re­port.

An ex­pert, on con­di­tion of anonymity, said, “Even clin­i­cal tri­als in stem cell treat­ments should only be done by do­main ex­perts. How­ever, th­ese days you would find stem cell clin­ics al­most ev­ery­where. It is an ex­pen­sive treat­ment modal­ity and you can’t fool peo­ple.”

The guide­lines elab­o­rately men­tion cat­e­gories where stem cell use “per­mis­si­ble, re­stric­tive or pro­hib­ited”.

The use of stem cells has been strictly pro­hib­ited in hu­man germ line gene ther­apy, wherein changes are made to the DNA that will be passed on to the next gen­er­a­tion, and hu­man cloning; use of gene mod­i­fied hu­man em­bryos; breed­ing of an­i­mals in which any type of hu­man stem cells have been in­tro­duced at any stage of de­vel­op­ment, etc.

“In­dia has a large un­met med­i­cal need, which re­quires fa­cil­i­ta­tion of safe and reg­u­lated trans­la­tional and clin­i­cal stem cell re­search,” says the re­port.

Dr Soumya Swami­nathan, di­rec­tor gen­eral, ICMR, said, “Th­ese are the up­dated guide­lines keep­ing in mind the ad­vances that have hap­pened in the field. It is a fast-paced area and needs con­stant upgra­da­tion.”

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