Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Stem Cell Transplantation Touching Lives

Our bustling lives are an epitome of the human splendor as well as the challenges we have instituted for ourselves. One such challenge is being healthy! Good health is undoubtedly the germ of optimism, which is rarely found in the modern lifestyle. While we have managed to run ahead of our needs, even to the extent of surpassing our wants, the newfound lifestyle has brought a decline in the overall health and well-being of our society. Factors like imbalanced diet, junk food, exposure to toxic content, polluted atmosphere are to name a few, which have led to lethal diseases like cancer having devastating effects on one's body in a long run, if not instant to be propitious. Thankfully, our modern healthcare facilities have not disappointed us at all. Institutes like Apollo hospitals and similar research and healthcare organizations have left no stone unturned to come up with modern healthcare facilities touching and soothing millions of lives daily.

We have seen times when a number of hematological disorders like leukemia (cancer of blood), beta thalassemia (genetic blood disorder), severe aplastic anemia (bone marrow does not produce sufficient new cells to replenish blood cells) etc. were invariably fatal, and there was no cure for them. Fortunately, our modern and well-equipped medical system is advancing with a great pace, and one such development is the use of "stem cell transplantation" technique which has arisen hopes for fighting such acute medical conditions.

Stem cell transplantation is an upcoming and a revered field in modern medicine. It involves the infusion or injection of healthy stem cells into the body to replace the damaged or diseased cells. Stem cell transplantation can be of three types depending from where cells have been used; as autologous transplantation (cells from your own body), allogenic stem cell transplantation (cells from a donor) or syngenic transplantation (cells from identical twin). Also, the stem cell transplantation is a general term and it can be called specifically by different names such as bone marrow transplant, peripheral blood stem cell transplant or an umbilical cord blood transplant depending on the source of the stem cells. Traditionally, donated organs or tissues were substituted for damaged or dysfunctional ones. However, the sad part of this story was that number of people waiting for transplantation outnumbered the number of available donors. As a result, people died awaiting transplants. Here, stem cells have a great potential to offer as a source of replacement to treat various diseases and reduce the morbidity and mortality of such awaiting patients.

The stem cells have many current applications for treating various diseases which include severe burns, type I diabetes, aplastic anemia, and its potential to treat many more diseases in the future such as neurological disorders (including Parkinson's and Alzheimer's) is being researched upon and surely it will pave the way for treating many other diseases. According to Lalit Kumar, professor of medical oncology at AIIMS, stem cell transplants have shown an around 50% of success in treating certain kinds of cancer and even a higher around 70 – 80% of success in treating other diseases like beta thalassemia, aplastic anemia.

India has a few centers/hospitals where stem cell transplantation can be done as per the needs. One such prestigious center is Apollo hospitals ( This hospital (Dr. Chirag Shah, Apollo International hospitals) is known to have successfully done the first autologous stem cell transplant for acute myeloid leukemia, and first allogenic stem cell transplant for leukemia in private sector of Gujarat.

Today, stem cell transplantation do offer hope for effective treatment with infinite possibilities in modern day healthcare. Moreover, stem cells can be used for research purposes for screening new drugs before being used on humans. They can even act as a testing model without risking the health of the volunteer. The continued research will make a way for the more incurable diseases and disorders, and time will witness more and more success stories of stem cell therapies, touching and reassuring more lives.

Top Image Source: