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Embryonic stem-cell therapy can treat incurable conditions: Researcher Geeta Shroff

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By Nishant Arora

Fifteen years ago when scientists the world over were still trying to understand the health benefit of the human stem-cell technology, an Indian specialist in the field took a step that left many in the scientific community bemused.

In 2000, she developed two purely human embryonic stem cell lines from just one fertilized egg. The cell-based therapy has since helped many patients improve their quality of life and live a stress-free life.

“I have been working in this field for over 15 years. Of these, 13 years have been spent in clinical application also. As a doctor, it is very satisfying to see improvements in the condition of your patient. However, since cell-based therapy is a very new field, greater education of the masses is required,” Dr. Geeta Shroff, founder and director of Nutech Mediworld, told IANS in an interview.

She offers treatment to patients suffering from conditions that are currently labelled as incurable. At Nutech Mediworld in New Delhi, she says her team has successfully treated over 1,400 patients from India and abroad. She has also written about her research in international journals.

Shroff recently treated a 38-year-old woman who was getting bruises all over her body and suffered from excessive fatigue. She was diagnosed as suffering from aplastic anaemia with severe anaemia and severe thrombocytopenia – deficiency of platelets in the blood, which causes bleeding into the tissues, bruising and slow blood clotting after injury.

The diagnosis was devastating because the condition leads to fatality. She had already undergone multiple blood transfusions. She was prescribed steroids and was in line for anti-thymocyte globulin (ATG) treatment which has low therapeutic safety and many side effects.

The inconvenience and stress of the blood transfusions, coupled with excessive fatigue, left her with little energy for anything else. Her platelet count continued to be less than 20,000.

“The patient heard about the cell-based therapy being offered by us and decided to undergo it. Today, she no longer requires blood transfusion and is leading a steroid-free life. Her CBC remains normal with Platelet count above 60,000. She no longer gets bruises easily,” Shroff said.

For the therapy, the two cell lines are derived from a single fertilized ovum obtained during a natural in vitro-fertilization (IVF) cycle with due consent.

Chromosomally stable cell lines free from contaminants are used.

“This technology does not require the administration of immunosuppressants. The ready to use form can be stored for more than six months and can be transported easily under temperature controlled conditions,” said the doctor.

The treatment is safe and effective and the results are not only replicable, but are also statistically significant, she said.

“As with all treatments, the cost of the therapy is based on the treatment protocol. This is further based on the diagnosis, patient’s condition, duration of illness, age, etc.,” she added.

Internationally, there have been several studies in the recent past on human embryonic stem cell therapy that paves the way for patient therapies.

According to a study published in the journal Scientific Reports in November last year by the scientists at the University of Edinburgh, stem cells that have been specifically developed for use as clinical therapies are fit for use in patients.

Dr Shroff is confident that the therapy has the potential of treating many of mankind’s worst known afflictions.

“It is our mission to see human embryonic stem cell therapy as the first line of treatment for many of mankind’s worst afflictions. Our technology has been patented in 66 countries, including the US, Singapore, Australia, Japan and Korea,” Dr Shroff said. (IANS)(Photo: westonmedicalhealth.com)

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C-Section Births Doubles In Number, Reaching Epidemic Proportions: Doctors

C-section is a type of major surgery, which carries risks that require careful consideration

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A newborn, one of 12 babies born by C-section, cries inside an incubator at the Bunda Hospital in Jakarta, Indonesia, Dec. 12, 2012. Several hospitals in Indonesia's main cities performed more cesareans than usual with new mothers hoping a 12-12-12 birth date will bring luck to their newborns. VOA

Worldwide cesarean section use has nearly doubled in two decades and has reached “epidemic” proportions in some countries, doctors warned Friday, highlighting a huge gap in childbirth care between rich and poor mothers.

They said millions of women each year may be putting themselves and their babies at unnecessary risk by undergoing C-sections at rates “that have virtually nothing to do with evidence-based medicine.”

In 2015, the most recent year for which complete data is available, doctors performed 29.7 million C-sections worldwide, or 21 percent of all births. This was up from 16 million in 2000, or 12 percent of all births, according to research published in The Lancet.

It is estimated that the operation, a vital surgical procedure when complications occur during birth, is necessary 10-15 percent of the time.

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The Yusuf Dantsoho Memorial Hospital has a high success rate with C-sections. Kaduna, Nigeria. Photo by Chika Oduah, VOA

Varying country rates

But the research found wildly varying country rates of C-section use, often according to economic status: In at least 15 countries, more than 40 percent births are performed using the practice, often on wealthier women in private facilities.

In Brazil, Egypt and Turkey, more than half of all births are done via C-section.

The Dominican Republic has the highest rate of any nation, with 58.1 percent of all babies delivered using the procedure.

But in close to a quarter of nations surveyed, C-section use is significantly lower than average.

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Maternal death and disability rates are higher after C-section Flickr

Reasons to opt for surgery

Authors pointed out that while the procedure is generally overused in many middle- and high-income settings, women in low-income situations often lack necessary access to what can be a life-saving procedure.

“We would not expect such differences between countries, between women by socioeconomic status or between provinces/states within countries based on obstetric need,” Ties Boerma, professor of public health at the University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, and a lead author on the study, told AFP.

Jane Sandall, professor of social science and women’s health at King’s College London and a study author, told AFP that there were a variety of reasons women were increasingly opting for surgery.

These include “a lack of midwives to prevent and detect problems, loss of medical skills to confidently and competently attend a vaginal delivery, as well as medico-legal issues.”

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It also identified an emerging gap between wealthy and poorer regions within the same country. Flickr

Doctors are often tempted to organize C-sections to ease the flow of patients through a maternity clinic, and medical professionals are generally less vulnerable to legal action if they choose an operation over a natural birth.

Sandall also said there were often “financial incentives for both doctor and hospital” to perform the procedure.

The study warned that in many settings young doctors were becoming “experts” in C-section while losing confidence in their abilities when it comes to natural birth.

Income a factor

It also identified an emerging gap between wealthy and poorer regions within the same country. In China, C-section rates diverged from 4 percent to 62 percent; in India the range was 7-49 percent.

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Worldwide, more than 11 percent of babies are born premature. Pixabay

While the U.S. saw more than a quarter of all births performed by C-section, some states used the procedure more than twice as often as others.

“It is clear that poor countries have low C-section use because access to services is a problem,” Sandall said. “In many of those countries, however, richer women who live in urban areas, have access to private facilities have much higher C-section use.”

Risks to mother, child

C-sections may be marketed by clinics as the “easy” way to give birth, but they are not without risks.

Maternal death and disability rates are higher after C-section than vaginal birth. The procedure scars the womb, which can lead to bleeding, ectopic pregnancies (where the embryo is stuck in the ovaries), as well as still- and premature future births.

 

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Doctors are often tempted to organize C-sections to ease the flow of patients through a maternity clinic. Flickr

 

The authors suggested better education, more midwifery-led care and improved labor planning as ways of ensuring C-sections are only performed when medically necessary, as well as ensuring women properly understand the risks involved with the procedure.

“C-section is a type of major surgery, which carries risks that require careful consideration,” Sandall said.

Also Read: Novel Blood Test May Predict Autism Risk In Babies During Pregnancy

In a comment accompanying the study, Gerard Visser of the University Medical Centre in the Netherlands, called the rise in C-sections “alarming.”

“The medical profession on its own cannot reverse this trend,” he said. “Joint actions are urgently needed to stop unnecessary C-sections and enable women and families to be confident of receiving the most appropriate care for their circumstances.”