Fingers crossed at AIIMS after stem cell transplant for MS, first in country


Doctors at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) have conducted a stem cell transplant on a multiple sclerosis (MS) patient. They believe this is the first recorded case of an autologous stem cell therapy — where the donor and recipient are the same person — for MS in the country.

Six months after the transplant, doctors say the spread of MS, an autoimmune disease that affects the brain and spinal cord, appears to have been contained but the therapy cannot be declared a success until the patient is monitored for at least a year.

International trials have demonstrated that this transplant can restrict the spread of the disease in advanced patients, and may even reverse symptoms in early stages in some patients.

Thirty-two-year-old Rohit Yadav, a commerce graduate from Delhi University, was diagnosed with the neurological disorder in 2010. In March this year, after trying all possible "conventional" treatment options, doctors at AIIMS finally decided on stem cell therapy.

Dr Kameshwar Prasad, professor of neurology who has been monitoring Yadav, said: "The primary purpose of autologous stem cell transplant is to control the spread of lesions. We extract the patient's own stem cells, treat and inject the stem cells back. Ever since the procedure, the patient has been completely stable. To the best of our knowledge, this is the first case of stem cell therapy for MS."

In MS, the body's own immune system attacks the myelin sheath that coats nerves, slowly destroying the central nervous system. Symptoms range from numbness and weakness in the limbs to sudden loss of balance and coordination, blurred vision and paralysis and, at the most advanced stage, disability.

There is no known permanent cure. About a dozen injectible 'disease-modifying drugs' in the broad category of interferons are available in India to control symptoms.

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