The miser-able have no other medicine; But only hope,” says the character Claudio who is sentenced for execution in the Shakespeare play titled Measure for Measure. The statement is an acutely pertinent reflection of the mindset of those who seek relief from severely debilitating or terminal illnesses. In complicated cases where new methods show promise of bringing cure, patients and their families find renewed hope. This is the reason for the growing interest in the subject of stem cell therapy; and also why the critically ill can fall victim to spurious treatments.
Stem cell therapy falls under the field of regenerative medicine. The basic premise behind this form of treatment is that stem cells can repair, restore, and regenerate damaged or diseased cells, tissues, and organs. Since stem cells are unspecialized cells that have the capability to replicate and differentiate to become specialized cell types (such as skin, muscle, blood, brain, and nerve cells), they have the ability to replace damaged cells. What’s more, adding new genes to stem cells also enables them to treat disease. To illustrate the current use of stem cell therapy, hematopoietic (blood-cell producing) transplants are done where cells from the bone marrow are used to restore the blood and immune system of patients with leukemia, lymphoma or other blood disorders.
But for cancer, diabetes, Parkinson’s disease, cerebral palsy, and countless other diseases, is stem cell therapy an effective treatment modality? The First International Symposium on Stem Cell Therapy held recently at the St. Luke’s Medical Center-Global City, was a forum for the exchange of new ideas and developments in the field.