Two Delhi centres ready to try stem cell therapy on paraplegics

FP

Ahead of a planned five-centre nationwide trial, the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) has approved a special project at the AIIMS Trauma Centre in New Delhi where stem cell therapy will be conducted on complete paraplegics and quadriplegics to try and revive limb function.

A similar trial will be conducted at the Indian Spinal Injuries Centre (ISIC) in Vasant Kunj, south-west Delhi where 21 patients have already been registered. This project too has been approved by the ICMR.

Senior ICMR scientists from the apex committee to monitor stem cell research said the five-centre trial will be coordinated from ISIC and is in the final stages of approval.

"This will be the first national ICMR trial of autologous bone marrow stem cell transplant on complete quadriplegics and paraplegics. We are finalising the number of patients. The ISIC will be the coordinating centre. The next meeting has been scheduled for December 4," a senior scientist said.

An autologous stem cell transplantation is a procedure in which stem cells are removed, stored and returned to the same person.

For its project, the AIIMS Trauma Centre has registered eight patients. They will be injected with stem cells from their own bone marrow to see if the damaged neurological function can be regenerated. Doctors have cautioned that earlier trials on incomplete quadriplegics and paraplegics have not suggested significant clinical improvement.

Dr Deepak Aggarwal, associate professor of neurosurgery at the AIIMS Trauma Centre who is coordinating the study, said: "We have necessary clearances from our internal ethics committee and the national apex committee for stem cell research and therapy which has members from the ICMR and Department of Biotechnology."

"We are trying to see if injecting patients of irreversible spinal cord injuries with stem cells from their own bone marrow, under autologous stem cell transplantation, can help regenerate neurological function," he said.

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