As various advances are made in regenerative medicine, stem cell therapies are seen as the innovative solutions to treating diseases where standard treatments available at present are proving to be ineffective. Dr Kanaka Bhushanam, head of the stem cell therapy dept at KIMS Foundation and Research Centre, throws light on stem cell therapy and its merits in an interview with Express.
What is stem cell therapy?
A stem cell is an initial cell which multiplies into a number of cells which, in turn, form into different groups and each group develops into a specific organ. The whole of human body is developed from the embryo which, in turn, is developed from one single cell. Stem cell therapy is the process of treating diseases using the ability of a stem cell to multiply into different cells.
How is stem cell therapy better than others?
Stem cell therapy is useful to persons suffering from diabetic foot, scleroderma, systemic lupus erythematosus, paralysis, stroke, blindness, hearing loss, orthopedic problems, etc. It is effective for degenerative and autoimmune diseases. Though stem cell therapy can do wonders in the treatment of several diseases, right now it is widely used in treating diabetic foot, lupus and scleroderma. Stem cell therapy is still in clinical trials stage and once the trials succeed there will be revolutionary changes in treating several chronic diseases. It can even be an answer to organ transplantation as cells from the same person can be used to develop new organs in the body.
How is stem cell therapy given?
Stem cells are taken from the bone marrow of a patient, developed and cultured in a lab, and injected into the person again. For example, the diabetic foot problem occurs when blood vessels carrying blood to the limbs are blocked and the blood supply is stopped. In that case, a stem cell is taken from a diabetic whose foot is affected and injected into his blood vessels again to de-block them and restore the blood supply to the limbs. As result, new cells start forming in the limbs thus obviating the need for amputation of the leg.
How is patients’ response to this therapy?
Stem cell therapy is yet to become popular as only a few medical institutes in India offer it. There is a need for awareness about stem cell therapy because if debilitating conditions like diabetic foot are diagnosed early and stem therapy is given, patients can be saved from amputation.
What about the cost?
Unlike other advanced treatments, stem cell therapy is well within the reach of the common man. For instance, the treatment for and surgery on diabetic foot using stem cell therapy costs about Rs 1.50 lakh. The cost is not a barrier to popularising stem cell therapy in India but shortage of expertise is.