Doctors don’t ‘back’ stem cell therapies

Published: November 7, 2012  |  Source: punemirror.in
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Medical experts advise spinal injury victims not to pin hopes on this therapy as it is ‘not yet fully researched’, say doctors performing this treatment should not charge patients

In the recently-concluded Maharashtra Orthopedic Association Conference (MOACON) —an annual meet attended by more than 1,200 surgeons, professors and students from across the state — the efficacy of stem cell therapy to treat spinal paraplegia was widely discussed and debated, only to reach the conclusion that not only is the widely-touted treatment still just in the research phase, but that doctors experimenting with it should not be charging patients exorbitant fees.

Medical experts arrived at the conclusion that this therapy has not yet shown positive results on patients with spinal paraplegia (which occurs when a spinal cord injury results in the impairment of motor or sensory functions in the lower half of the body).

Spinal cord injury is a common malady, with over 20,000 such cases in the country every year, especially caused by road accidents. Often, it leads to paraplegia or quadriplegia (paralysis of both upper and lower limbs) and even a small delay in surgery could cause permanent damage — if injuries are addressed more than six hours after an accident, the dangers of paralysis increase dramatically.

At such a time, patients and families desperately seek paramedical options or modalities that are still in the research phase. “However,” said Dr Ketan Khurjekar, spinal surgeon and secretary of the MOACON organising committee, “it has been observed that Stem Cell Therapy has been wrongly popularised, and spinal paraplegic patients often fall prey to such hype.”

He added, “It has been portrayed by the media, doctors and stem cell labs that this therapy is the only ray of hope for paraplegics. Surgeons resorting to stem cell therapy are performing daylight robbery.

This treatment is still in the research phase and results are not predictable. If a doctor wishes to take a chance with his/her patient, they should at least not charge lakhs of rupees, as it is purely for personal research.” Another city-based spinal surgeon Dr Neeraj Adkar, said, “Basically, the whole idea is very futuristic.

Research is being performed internationally on mice and other animals but only here do we experiment on human beings. Till today, not a single patient has improved solely because of stem cell therapy. Doctors performing this treatment should not charge patients.”

STEM CELL Therapy

STEM CELLS, or master cells as they are popularly known, are cells that can divide and produce copies of themselves and other types of cells. They are aspirated from a patient’s own bone marrow and processed in stem cell laboratories.

Then, these stem cells are injected into the lower lumbar spine in treatments for spinal injuries. They are meant to climb from lumbar spine (lower back) to the injured cervical spine level (neck area) and locate the spinal cord injury site. They then heal the tissues in the injured area

Neha Taneja