Five things you need to know about stem cell therapy

Stem cell therapy, also known as regenerative medicine, promotes the reparative response of diseased, dysfunctional or injured tissue using stem cells or their derivatives. It is the next chapter of organ transplantation and uses cells instead of donor organs, which are limited in supply

Stem cell therapy, also known as regenerative medicine, promotes the reparative response of diseased, dysfunctional or injured tissue using stem cells or their derivatives. It is the next chapter of organ transplantation and uses cells instead of donor organs, which are limited in supply
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Q. What is the stem cell therapy and how is it used?

A. Cell based therapy is the beginning of a new era in the world of regenerative medicine. The main goal of this form of therapy is to harness the potential of endogenous repair mechanisms to promote tissue regeneration.

Autologous cell based therapy is most talked about in recent times. This means that cells and growth factors are obtained from the patients’ own body and are transplanted after minimal manipulation through a route appropriate for the specific disease condition.

Q. What diseases are cured using this therapy?

A. We have just begun to explore the possible applications of cell based therapy. Cells in our bodies have varied properties – anti-inflammation, immune system modulation along with paracrine properties to stimulate other cells etc. Based on these cell based therapy can be used to treat a wide range of inflammatory, autoimmune, infectious conditions etc.

Orthopaedic conditions such as arthritis, avascular necrosis; autoimmune conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, ankylosing spondylitis; diabetes; sports injuries etc. are few examples that benefit through cell based therapy.

In addition, cells have the ability to differentiate into system specific cells.

For example, mesenchymal cells can differentiate into nerve system cells (neurons), thus may be beneficial in management of neurological conditions.

The list goes on; with increasing knowledge of the properties of these cells, science is now exploring management of conditions that were previously thought to be untreatable by conventional modalities.

Q. How well is this accepted in India?

A. Indians today are quite aware of the benefits of regenerative medicine and cell based therapy, but there is still a long distance to cover before we can effectively ensure that this form of therapy reaches every strata of the society. This is now being accomplished through awareness programmes, camps etc. being conducted by regenerative medicine specialists.

Q. How effective is this therapy as an alternative to traditional therapy?

A. Cell based therapies utilise the innate regenerative potential of the body to treat diseases. This means that the root cause of a disease is targeted and not just the signs and symptoms.

Through this form of therapy, it is ensured that there is effective repair and regeneration of damaged tissues and organs, therefore results achieved are definitive and maintained over long periods of time. Source of cells being autologous, the therapy is safe and is not associated with side effects.

Q. Is this cost effective?

A. As previously mentioned, the process is minimally invasive and requires minimal manipulation of cells that are obtained from the patients’ own body.

This is associated with lower duration of stay at the hospital, thereby reducing financial burden on families. Patients are able to resume basic daily activities within few days-weeks (depending on severity of disease condition), thus there is not much impact on professional life either.

Moreover, as results achieved are maintained for long periods, there is reduced need for repeated hospitalisation. All these factors combined make cell based therapy a cost effective option when compared to conventional therapeutic modalities.

The author is a Regenerative Medicine Researcher at StemRx Bioscience Solutions Pvt. Ltd