Friday May 24, 2019

India tops in development of Stem cell treatment, also it can be a pathbreaking Therapy for Diabetes, Autism

Stem cell therapy has turned out to be a ray of hope for most patients who are trying to find a cure for incurable diseases

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Doctors operating on a patient (representational image), Pixabay

Jan 18, 2017: Stem cell therapy has turned out to be a ray of hope for most patients who are trying to find a cure for incurable diseases. Researchers and experts believe India has been at the top in the development of stem cell treatment followed by several other countries like China and Japan. However, due to lack of awareness, most people don’t think of stem cell therapy as an option for treating most of the incurable diseases.

One of the major issues that India is battling is increasing incidence of diabetes and autism. According to reports, more than 10 million children in India suffer from autism. About 1 to 1.5 per cent of such children are aged 2-9. Autism by far is a mental condition which is present from early childhood, characterised by great difficulty in communicating and forming relationships with other people and in using language and abstract concepts, and also characterised by weakened social interface, weakened communication and indulging in repetitive behaviour.

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In the case of diabetes, it is one of the most talked-about diseases across the world and especially in India, but awareness on this is still low. Diabetes generally occurs due to failure or damage of the cells that produce insulin in the pancreas called Beta cells. Diabetes can be classified into 2 types: Type 1 (T1DM) and Type 2 (T2DM).

Stem cells are part of the human body and have the unique ability of naturally finding and repairing the place of damage within. Over the past two decades, it has been made possible to treat T1DM by transplanting islet cells or even whole pancreas from cadaveric donors (allogenic transplantation). Transplants can enable the body to regain control of blood sugar levels so that insulin injections are no longer needed.

Islet transplantations are not very common, because whole pancreas transplants involve major surgery and carry significant risk. Transplants require the immune system to be suppressed so that the new “alien” organ is not rejected. Immuno-suppressant drugs leave the recipient vulnerable to infections and often have side-effects. One of the biggest problems faced by islet transplantation is the lack of donors.

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This can be overcome by using patient’s own stem cells (autologous transplantation), bypassing all the complications, rejections and side-effects. Research has shown that stem cells present in the patient’s pancreas are able to make new Beta cells. Beta cell progenitors have been found in the pancreas of both rodents and humans; it may be possible to grow islet cells from patient’s existing islet cells. Alternately, mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) treatment is also being explored. These can be sourced from the patient’s own adipose tissue (fat), umbilical cord, menstrual fluid, bone marrow and the like.

Clinical trials inserting MSCs into Type 1 diabetes patients take advantage of two properties of these cells. Firstly, they have the regenerative potential to repair Beta cells and, secondly, they can modulate the immune system by inhibiting the responses that lead to the auto-immune attack on pancreatic Beta cells. Since these stem cells come from the patient’s own body, there is also no risk of rejection or side-effects. MSCs may be injected intravenously or within the pancreas itself. This approach promotes Beta cell function, thereby reducing or eliminating the requirement for exogenous insulin.

The central government is also planning to curb the growing incidence of diabetes by stringent measures, including higher taxes and stricter advertisement norms to regulate sale of sugar-sweetened beverages and junk food.

Clinical trials are also under way for autism. Experts believe the umbilical cord stem cells are ideal for treating this because they allow doctors to administer uniform doses as they don’t require collection of stem cells from the patient considering it could be a laborious process for child and the parent. Because they are collected right after birth, umbilical cord-derived cells are much more potent than their “older” counterparts like bone marrow-derived cells.

With trials under way, stem cell therapy could be an effective solution in treating autism and Type 1 diabetes rather than harmful drugs. (IANS)

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Obesity Increasing More Quickly in Rural Areas than in Cities Worldwide: Study

City-dwelling women and men, however, put on 38 and 24 percent less, respectively, than their rural counterparts over the same period, according to the findings, published in Nature

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FILE - A man crosses a main road as pedestrians carrying food walk along the footpath in central Sydney, Australia. VOA

Obesity worldwide is increasing more quickly in rural areas than in cities, a study reported Wednesday, challenging a long-held assumption that the global epidemic of excess weight is mainly an urban problem.

Data covering 200 countries and territories compiled by more than 1,000 researchers showed an average gain of roughly five to six kilos per woman and man living in the countryside from 1985 to 2017.

City-dwelling women and men, however, put on 38 and 24 percent less, respectively, than their rural counterparts over the same period, according to the findings, published in Nature. “The results of this massive global study overturn commonly held perceptions that more people living in cities is the main cause of the global rise in obesity,” said senior author Majid Ezzati, a professor at Imperial College London’s School of Public Health.

“This means that we need to rethink how we tackle this global health problem.” The main exception to the trend was sub-Saharan Africa, where women gained weight more rapidly in cities. Obesity has emerged as a global health epidemic, driving rising rates of heart disease, stroke, diabetes and a host of cancers.

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Two women converse in New York, June 26, 2012. The nation’s obesity epidemic continues to grow, led by an alarming increase among women. Obesity is one of the risk factors of heart failure. VOA

The annual cost of treating related health impacts could top a trillion dollars by 2025, the World Obesity Federation estimated in 2017. To date, most national and international policies to curb excess body weight have focused on cities, including public messaging, the redesign of urban spaces to encourage walking, and subsidized sports facilities.

Body-mass index

To factor health status into the comparison across nations, the researchers used a standard measure known as the “body-mass index”, or BMI, based on height and weight. A person with a BMI of 25 or more is considered overweight, while 30 or higher is obese. A healthy BMI ranges from 18.5 to 24.9.

Approximately two billion adults in the world are overweight, nearly a third of them obese. The number of obese people has tripled since 1975. The study revealed important differences between countries depending on income level.

In high-income nations, for example, the study found that rural BMI were generally already higher in 1985, especially for women. Lower income and education levels, the high cost and limited availability of healthy foods, dependence on vehicles, the phasing out of manual labour — all of these factors likely contributed to progressive weight gain.

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The populations — both men and women — in small South Pacific island nations have among the highest BMI levels in the world, often well above 30. Pixabay

Conversely, urban areas “provide a wealth of opportunities for better nutrition, more physical exercise and recreation, and overall improved health,” Ezzati said. Around 55 percent of the world’s population live in cities or satellite communities, with that figure set to rise to 68 percent by mid-century, according to the United Nations.

‘Ultra-processed foods’

The most urbanized regions in the world are North America (82 percent), Latin America and the Caribbean (81 percent) and Europe (74 percent). More recently, the proportion of overweight and obese adults in the rural parts of many low- and middle-income countries is also rising more quickly than in cites.

“Rural areas in these countries have begun to resemble urban areas,” Barry Popkin, an expert on global public health at the University of North Carolina, said in a comment, also in Nature. “Modern food supply is now available in combination with cheap mechanized devices for farming and transport,” he added. “Ultra-processed foods are also becoming part of the diets of poor people.”

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“The NDC Risk Factor Collaboration challenges us to create programmes and policies that are rurally focused to prevent weight gain”, Popkin said. VOA

At a country level, several findings stand out. Some of the largest BMI increases from 1985 to 2017 among men were in China, the United States, Bahrain, Peru and the Dominican Republic, adding an average of 8-9 kilos per adult.

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Women in Egypt and Honduras added — on average, across urban and rural areas — even more. Rural women in Bangladesh, and men living in rural Ethiopia, had the lowest average BMI in 1985, at 17.7 and 18.4 respectively, just under the threshold of healthy weight. Both cohorts were well above that threshold by 2017.

The populations — both men and women — in small South Pacific island nations have among the highest BMI levels in the world, often well above 30. “The NDC Risk Factor Collaboration challenges us to create programmes and policies that are rurally focused to prevent weight gain”, Popkin said. (VOA)