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Is it possible to treat diabetes with stem cell transplantation?

Q: I want to know how safe is the stem cell treatment for diabetes. Dr. Geeta Shroff is claming that she can cure diabetes with her stem cell treatment. Are there any side effects of this treatment? Need your advice, as I am a diabetic and willing to get this treatment.

A:Stem cells (or cells quite akin to them) have been identified in many different tissues of the body like neural, pancreatic, epidermal, mesenchymal, hepatic, bone, muscle, and endothelial tissues. Stem cell work is still quite experimental but is very promising as many beneficial therapies are thought to exist with much scientific value being ascribed to cord blood and its cells. Various centres in the world have been reporting their use in Parkinson’s disease, heart disease, endocrine disorders, etc. but this is still not being done routinely or being offered as a therapeutic modality. Human cord blood contains a large number of haematopoietic progenitor cells that can be used as a source of stem cells for treatment of blood disorders and cancers. Clinical efficacy is currently limited to bone marrow transplant, grafting new skin cells to treat burns, regenerating cornea in visually impaired, etc. Its potential use includes cures for cancer and treatment of neurologic, cardiac, renal, and endocrine (diabetes) diseases. There are still many difficulties in the routine use of stem cells and they include problem in identifying stem cells in tissue cultures, which contain numerous types of cells; to coax the cell to develop into a desired cell; integrating the new cells into the patient’s own tissue, both structurally and functionally; preventing tissue rejection and the possible risk of cancer. It is still not known what the effect of storing these cells for several decades would be as there have been no long term studies. As per the ICMR guidelines, as of date, there is no approved indication for stem cell therapy as a part of routine medical practice, other than Bone Marrow Transplantation (BMT). Accordingly, all stem cell therapy other than BMT (for accepted indications) is treated as experimental. Institutions registered with the ICMR can enroll patients in clinical trials. You will need to contact the doctors doing so as they would be best placed to advise.

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