Tread Cautiously On Stem Cell Research

Two children developed cancer and lost their lives last October after a French Physician used gene therapy to treat their Serve Combined Immunodeficiency Syndrome (SCID),
A primary immune deficiency disorder.

After that similar clinical trials, with either stem cells or gene therapy in humans, have been stalled in United states, But such tests are still being continued in India. Doctors at the All-India Institute of Medical Sciences (Aiims) in New Delhi and Nizam’s Institute of Medical Sciences (Niims) here announced recently using stem cells successfully to treat
Patients.

However, Center for Cellular and Molecular Biology (CCMB) director Dr Lalji Singh
Cautions researchers to go slow on stem cell research. “Stem cell transplant requires long term observation in animal models before using it in humans”, he stated.

Stem cells – whether taken from bone marrow or muscles or cord blood- have the ability to grow in to in to any kind of tissue- skin, heart, liver or nerve cells.” But before understanding the basic mechanics of stem cells, jumping into clinical trials on humans would have adverse effects.

When a patient’s liver or nerve cells or cardiac muscles are damaged, injecting stem cells into it might be successful for a short period, perhaps for a month or a year, but, in the long run, if the stem cells multiply randomly it could lead to cancer or other complications.

In case of terminally patients, including brain dead, clinical trials with stem cell would be advisable with the consent of the patient and his family, Singh added.

The CCMB chief also hoped that Union government would set up a regulatory body to frame guidelines to be followed while doing clinical trials using stem cells or gene therapy.

The premier institute clinical trails on rats to repair its damaged liver (with stem cells from bone marrow) and mice (repairing damaged heart muscles) had been successful.

With that breakthrough, Deccan College of Medical Sciences director Dr C M Habeebullah has also identified patients who had given their consent for clinical trials with bone marrow stem cells in the city.

However, considering the need for studying the long term effects of stem cell transplant in animals in animals, a nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) imaging facility would set up this year at the CCMB. The Center for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) and the Department of Science and Technology (DST) has sanctioned Rs 10 crore to the institute for the purpose.

The NMR imaging facility will be the first of its kind in the country to study long-term effects of stem cell transplant, beginning with animals.

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