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Is stem cell therapy advisable for treating motor neuron disease?

Q: My 44 years old brother is suffering from motor neuron disease. I recently came to know that there is a treatment of stem cells technology. Can we take this treatment? How effective it is? What are its side effects? Please advise.

A:A stem cell is a cell that is capable of indefinite reproduction and is independently capable of generating every tissue that ultimately constitutes an adult organism. 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. As per the Indian Council of Medical Research (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 enrol patients in clinical trials. There is no cure or standard treatment for motor neuron disease (MND) except symptomatic and supportive therapy. There is a lot of work going on regarding the use of drugs like antioxidants, growth factors, stem cells and even gene therapy. I am not aware if the ICMR has approved stem cell treatment in MND. In case you enrol your brother for such a trial, please make sure that the centre is recognised by ICMR as stem cell use is still speculative. You will need to contact the doctors doing so as they would be best placed to advise.

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