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Hope for Paraplegics, Stem Cell Therapy in India Delivers Results

By Y. Mallikarjun, The Hindu, August 11, 2006

Seven months of stem cell therapy has brought sensation back to a man who was left a paraplegic on December 26th, 2004, after his spinal cord was damaged during a road accident.

"Before operation, there was no sensation. Now I am feeling the sensation and am able to get up a bit on my own," says 28-year-old man.

He is one of a dozen other people at the Global Hospitals in Hyderabad, India, who are undertaking stem cell therapy for spinal cord injury. The program is run under ICMR-approved protocol.

G.P.V. Subbaiah, who is an orthopedic and spinal surgeon, said that the result so far has been beyond his expectations. He was astonished by the display of such “encouraging results” in the 28-year-old patient. In January, the man was the first patient to be injected with adult-stem cells at the site of injury in the spinal cord.

Subbaiah said the patient had absolute loss of feeling from the chest downwards.

"Now he has regained all sensations, including light touch up to the groin. He also has increased sweating which is controlled by the autonomic nervous system. This shows that the system is also responding."

Another accident victim from Saudi Arabia who flew to the hospital for stem cell treatment had regained some movement in his legs.

“Before the advent of the stem cell therapy, there was only supportive treatment to prevent bed sores and other problems like urinary infection,” said Dr. Subbaiah, “but now there is hope that some of the lost functions can be restored."

Data from animal studies provide enough evidence that the therapy does work said the doctor.

Indian Spinal Injuries Center approximates that at least one lakh, or one-hundred thousand, spinal cord injuries happen each year. Due to the lack of proper data, this number may be grossly underestimated. Individuals from the age of 25 to 40 make up 85 to 90 percent of the spinal cord victims.

In their most productive years these injuries crippled them.

"It has a lot of impact on society," he stated.


 

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