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Parkinson's Patient Cured by Indian Stem Cell Treatment

Tribune News Service, April 4, 2007

The first world wide case of a recovery from Parkinsonís disease as an effect of stem cells extracted from the patientís own body was reported today at Manipal hospital in India.

This marked the first time such a major endeavor was attempted in India for treatment of Parkinson's disease.

The outcome is significant. The patient came to India after being treated by surgical and other conventional treatments in the United States. Andrew is a U.S. citizen, but of Pakistani origin.

ďThis is clearly the first such clearly documented case in which a patient has recovered from Parkinsonís disease after the use of stem cellsĒ, hospital managing director R. Basil disclosed.

When Andrew was admitted to Manipal hospital last year, he was dragging his left leg behind him which was making it difficult for him to walk said his daughter Kusma. Andrew was having problems swallowing and even breathing at the time.

Today Andrew met the media to tell his story and walked to the podium unaided. His speech has improved dramatically but he still has a slight slur so he chose to type his thoughts onto a laptop for everyone to read. Andrew can now walk without aid, a feat which was previously impossible. His tremors have reduced considerably along with improvement in his handwriting, gait, general muscle strength, and bowel movements.

Andrew had been experiencing laryngeal spasm. This was due to deep brain stimulation surgery that U.S. doctors had performed on him, and the severe spasms were a side effect of the treatment. The Indian stem cell treatment corrected the problems that developed from the conventional U.S. treatment. Over the past six months he has also been free from any Parkinsonís disease related drugs he was prescribed in the United States.

Harvested from Andrews' bone marrow, mesenchymal stem cells were injected in a series of three at the hospital explained the hospitalís neurological disease institute head Dr. N.K Venkataramana. Transplanted into the brain were as many as 1.5 million of these stem cells. Andrew paid Rs 75,000 (approximately $1,758 U.S. dollars) for each injection, but Dr. Venkataramana said that this cost would naturally reduce over time.

The present treatment removed some of the symptoms of Parkinsonís disease but Dr. Venkataramana says that the progression of the disease has, more than likely, not been stopped completely: the hope is that none of Andrewsí symptoms return. Still, he says that adult stem cell research for the treatment of Parkinsonís disease shows tremendous promise. Without any issues of ethics surrounding the treatment, the results would motivate patients worldwide to explore this treatment option.

"The successful recovery of the patient would give hope to scores of Parkinson's cases which affects one per cent of the population. The condition largely manifests in cases above 50 years, but there are younger people being affected. Stem cell therapy now gives such patients a new hope. However, we need to observe the long term clinical effects in larger number of patients to decide whether it is primary or secondary or supplementary treatment option for degenerative disorders", said Dr. Venkataramana.

The hospital treats other conditions using adult stem cells as well. The hospital's regenerative medicine department is currently carrying out clinical trials in stem cell therapy in 15 spinal cord injury patients and is also carrying out research for the use of stem cells in patients of heart attack and leg ischemia.

One of the patients with spinal cord injury and treated with stem cell injection. He was not able to move his limbs, had no sensation or control over bowel movements.

"After the treatment I am able to pass urine and can move my hands. My sensations have also come back," he said.

India is now uniquely positioned in stem cell research and could emerge a clinical hub for the purpose say doctors at the hospital.


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