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Monday, February 16, 2009

Stem cell hope for neuro patients!

Information reported to MS Views & News by Shub, in India

NEW DELHI: There may be life beyond dopamine therapy for the six crore-odd Parkinson's patients in the country!
All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) has recently started stem cell trials for the treatment of Parkinson's disease and the neurology department has enrolled five patients for it. Though in the nascent stages, experts say stem cell treatment is likely to be the preferred treatment mode for neurological disorders like Parkinson's, Alzheimer's and the lot in the near future. Stem cell therapy in fact was the recurrent theme in the 2nd Asian and Oceanian Parkinson's Disease and Movement Disorder Congress and the 7th Asia Pacific Parkinson's Association (APPA) organised by AIIMS neurology department on Sunday.

Usually extracted from embryos or from bone marrow or umbilical cord, stem cells are primitive, undifferentiated cells that have the ability to grow into any type of tissue. They are being hailed as the dream treatment for a wide range of "incurable'' diseases. "We have started stem cell trials for the treatment of Parkinson's disease. But it is a long process. In this trial, we will be using bone marrow stem cells harvested from patients. The cells, after being regrown in the laboratory, will be surgically inserted into the patient's
brain. As we would be using patient's own stem cells, there would be no chances of rejection," said Dr Sumit Singh, associate professor and co-investigator of the stem cell trail at AIIMS. Headed by Dr Madhuri Behari, head of the neurology department, AIIMS, the team stated the trial in January. "We plan to inject the stem cells back into the patients in the coming month. But it is too early to predict the results," said Dr Singh.

After Alzheimer's disease,
Parkinson's is the second most common neuro-degenerative disorder. It is estimated that worldwide 1% people above the age of 65 and 3% people above the age of 80 are affected by it. In India alone, there are approximately 60 million people suffering from Parkinson's disease. "The reason for the disease is not known, but with right and timely medical intervention, the process of degeneration can be delayed. But factors like genetic composition and environmental toxins are found to be responsible for the disease," said Dr Behari, the organizing chairperson of the conference.

Deliberating on the new trends in the treatment of Parkinson's disease, experts cautioned that "hype should be kept aware from hope" in case of stem cell treatment, as trials are in progress. Dr Rupam Borgohain, neurologist at Nizam's Institute of Medical Sciences in Hyderabad, who is also experimenting with stem cells in treating Parkinson's disease, said, "It (stem cells) is definitely the way to go, but it is important to keep hype away from hope. It is in the trial phase and we hope to see positive results, but till then we have to wait. Stem cell tissues have proved to be beneficial in treating Parkinson's disease in a few cases. And that gives us hope to move forward."

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