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Doctors who use stem cells: regulate and document research & therapy

Ahead of Saturday’s public consultation on national guidelines for stem cell research and therapy,doctors using the technique are hoping for a consensus on the need for government support and documentation of the use of adult autologous stem cells.

Written by Jinal Shah | Mumbai | Published: February 19, 2010 12:04 am

Ahead of Saturday’s public consultation on national guidelines for stem cell research and therapy,doctors using the technique are hoping for a consensus on the need for government support and documentation of the use of adult autologous stem cells.

Autologous stem cells are extracted from the patient’s bone marrow and researchers are hoping there will be a push for further research and such therapy.

Doctors say many hospitals use adult autologous and also cord blood cells and need support in the form of regulation and documentation.

“We treat patients with paralysis and conditions like multiple sclerosis,muscular dystrophy,stroke,cerebral palsy and motor neuron disease. The success rate is about 60 per cent and patients are well informed. We treat only those who have exhausted all options and when the disease is incurable,” said Dr Alok Sharma,head of neurosurgery at Sion Hospital,who has handled about 100 such cases since 2007.

KEM and Tata Memorial hospitals and the private Kokilaben Dhirubhai Ambani,Lilavati and Jaslok hospitals,too,are involved in stem cell research and therapy.

“What we need is proper documentation of research across the country. The Indian Council for Medical Research (ICMR)… can initiate multi-centric studies by recognised labs,” said Admiral S K Mohanty,medical director at Jaslok.

In 2007,the ICMR and the Department of Biotechnology had jointly formulated ethical and scientific guidelines. Some feel there needs to be a tough law.

“Many are making false claims of being able to treat ailments for financial gain,putting patients at risk and under a financial burden,” said Sanjiv Kholkute,director of the National Institute for Research in Reproductive Health (NIRRH).

“Stem cell therapy is still at the experimental stage. There is a need to regulate clinics and hospitals that claim cures with stem cells without evidence,” said Dr Geeta Jothani,principal scientific officer (stem cell research) at ICMR.

At Jaslok,Mohanty said,“Currently,feasibility of isolating menstrual blood as a stem cell source is being studied. We need to lift the bar on use of menstrual blood if it’s proven non-malignant.”

The public consultation will debate legal,ethical and religious issues. The larger debate remains on embryonic stem cells.

“NIRRH started working on embryonic stem cells five years ago and will start animal studies shortly. Our research is focused on treatment of cardiac problems and diabetes,” said Dr Deepa Bhartiya,senior scientist at NIRRH’s stem cell biology unit.

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