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Indian researchers warn, stem cell is no panacea for stroke

New Delhi (ISJ) – Researchers at India’s premier All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) have warned, stem cell therapy does not offer any benefit for treatment of stroke-affected.  In a study, spanning over six years, researchers led by Dr. Kameshwar Prasad, head of neurology department at AIIMS, found patients suffering from disabling and incurable diseases, should not accept such therapy until there is clinical evidence of its efficacy.

“Though stem cell treatment is safe, but there is no added beneficial effect from conventional treatment,” said Dr. Prasad.

AIIMS in collaboration with Sanjay Gandhi Post Graduate Institute of Medical Sciences, Lucknow, Post Graduate Institute of Medical Education and Research, Chandigrah, Armed Forces Medical College, Pune and Army Research & Referral Hospital, New Delhi conducted a comparative study of conventional treatment and stem cell treatment on 120 stroke patients.

“All these patients had stroke or paralysis two to four weeks, before inclusion in this study but they had not improved significantly,” said Dr. Prasad. “As of today, there is no approved indication for stem cell therapy as part of routine medical practice, other than bone marrow transplantation.”

The study, the first and largest randomized controlled trial of stem cell in the world, was published in American Medical Journal ‘Stroke’.

“Many private hospitals are offering this therapy at high cost to unsuspecting and desperate patients, weeks to months after stroke without any randomized evidence,” cautioned Dr. Prasad.

Stroke debilitate part of the brain irreversibly, but there are neurons surrounding the affected portion of the brain which remain dormant, energy-less and at the risk of death. Stem Cell therapy is believed to wake up the sleeping cells, activate inactive ones and save the dying ones, thus speeding up recovery.  But the latest study by Indian doctors do not throw up any convincing evidence to suggest the efficacy of the treatment.

WHO estimates 15 million people globally experience stroke annually, of which six million die, while four million are left with disabilities. Despite advances in care and preventive medicine, stroke remains a major burden on healthcare system worldwide. Intravenous thrombolysis is the only approved therapy for acute ischemic stroke. However, few stroke patients receive this therapy because of its narrow time window.

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