Stem cell cure claims dubious: Experts

Stem cell cure claims dubious: Experts

All promises from clinics or cord blood banks should be taken with a pinch of salt, they say

With barely any regulation and monitoring in the lucrative stem cell therapy and cord blood banking business, their suggestion for the common man is to ask many questions at the clinics and companies offering such services and to fully understand the risks before going ahead with stem cell therapy and cord blood banking.

“Stem cells have lots of hopes and promises, but at the moment very few are of a proven benefit to the patients,” said Kanjaksha Ghosh, director of Mumbai’s National Institute of Immunohaematology, one of the laboratories of Indian Council of Medical Research.

Before accepting any stem cell therapy, a patient should ask whether it was an investigational or standard therapy; what the long term risks are and how many patients received it before, and what the response was, said Ghosh.

Explaining why private clinics offering stem cell therapies were mushrooming in India, Ghosh attributed the cause to the absence of strict regulation, hype about the technology and its wide availability. Also stem cell therapies are promised in desperate situations.

“Higher level of evidence is required before the stem cell therapies are put to clinical use,” Harvindersingh Chhabra at Delhi's Indian Spinal Injuries Centre said at an ICMR-department of biotechnology public consultation on stem cell.

The government in future aims at converting the revised guideline into a law on stem cell research and therapy with a punishment clause to book the doctors and clinics who flout the existing guidelines.

The misleading claims of private cord blood banks who pitch storing umbilical cord blood as “biological insurance” for lifetime protection and charge a hefty fee.

“But the volume they collect is only 70 ml, which is not sufficient if it is used to extract stem cell for anybody beyond 10 years of age,” said Shyam Agarwal, former director of Sanjay Gandhi Post Graduate Institute of Medical Education in Lucknow.

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