Thursday April 18, 2019
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Robot-assisted Tumour Surgery Performed for the First Time in India

"This would be a first ever use of a robot in this manner -- a rare approach to an already rare and complex case," Neil Malhotra, an assistant professor of Neurosurgery and Orthopaedic Surgery said in a statement.

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Technology lends a hand to cure tumour. Pixabay

A team of neurosurgeons led by an Indian-origin professor from the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine performed the first-ever robot-assisted spinal surgery to successfully remove a rare tumour on the patient’s neck.

The robotic approach assisted with a three-part, two-day complex procedure for a rare chordoma tumour removal from a patients’ neck, where the skull meets the spine.

Chordoma is a rare type of cancer that occurs in the bones of the skull base and spine. A chordoma tumour usually grows slowly and is often asymptomatic for years.

He added that due to the placement of the tumour, the removal could compromise the structural integrity of the patient's spine, causing permanent paralysis.
Surgical Equipments are used for tumour surgery. Pixaby

It is extremely rare and it affects only one in a million people each year.

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“This would be a first ever use of a robot in this manner – a rare approach to an already rare and complex case,” Neil Malhotra, an assistant professor of Neurosurgery and Orthopaedic Surgery said in a statement.

“Our team needed to reconstruct the removed area of patient’s spine using bone and rods, and that was only the beginning,” Malhotra added.

He added that due to the placement of the tumour, the removal could compromise the structural integrity of the patient’s spine, causing permanent paralysis.

There was also a risk of complications such as bone and tissue breakdown, loss of sense of smell, fine motor skill issues and complete paralysis.

“If we could not remove the entire tumour, it would likely grow back, perhaps more aggressive than before,” Malhotra added.

The surgery was performed in three parts and now nine months after the surgery, the patient is back to work in commercial contracting. (IANS)

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This Tiny Cell is Good News for Cancer Survivors

This approach to fertility restoration is safe," says Bhartiya pointing out to earlier studies carried out in her laboratory in mice which had shown that this method restored the role of non-functional ovaries and resulted in the birth of fertile offsprings

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Cancer
Cancer Ribbon. Pixabay

A scientist at the National Institute for Research in Reproductive Health (NIRRH) in Mumbai — an institute under the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) — says a new type of stem cell identified by her team can help restore fertility in men and women who have undergone treatment for cancer.

Cancer treatment, or “oncotherapy”, that involves use of radiation and chemicals, renders patients infertile as an unwanted side effect and, while cured of cancer, they cannot beget children.

Though women are born with a lifetime reserve of “oocytes” ( immature eggs), these are wiped out by oncotherapy. In males, the testes responsible for the production of sperms, stop making them following cancer treatment.

Currently accepted approaches for fertility preservation require male patients to deposit their sperm in “cryo-banks” before beginning cancer treatment for later use. Similarly women, wanting to have children, must have their eggs or embryos “cryopreserved” for use after oncotherapy.

“Such approaches are invasive, expensive, technically challenging and depend on assisted reproductive technologies,” reports NIRRH cell biologist Deepa Bhartiya in the latest issue of the Indian Journal of Medical Research, the flagship journal of ICMR.

According to the report, there is now a way out. Bhartiya says research by her team over the years led to identification of a novel population of “Very Small Embryonic-Like stem cells (VSELs)”, in testis (in males) and ovaries (in females).

Being “quiescent” by nature, these primitive stem cells (VSELs) survive cancer therapy and therefore can offer young cancer survivors options to have children without having to bank their sperms or embryos prior to oncotherapy, says the report.

“The VSELs have remained elusive over decades due to their small size and presence in very few numbers,” says Bhartiya.

Cancer patient
Cancer patient.

The discovery of these unique VSELs (in testes and ovaries) that do not succumb to oncotherapy “opens up an alternative strategy to regenerate non-functional gonads and ovaries in cancer survivors”, says Bhartiya.

While VSELs survive cancer treatment, their original “habitat” (or niche) however gets destroyed by oncotherapy. To make the VSELs functional, their “niche” should be re-created by transplanting “mesenchymal cells” — another type of stem cells taken from the bone marrow — into the testes, says the report.

A simple and direct transplantation of “mesenchymal cells in the non-functional gonads may suffice to regenerate them,” says Bhartiya. “Similarly, transplantation of “ovarian surface epithelial cells” may allow the VSELs to regenerate nonfunctional ovaries.”

“This approach to fertility restoration is safe,” says Bhartiya pointing out to earlier studies carried out in her laboratory in mice which had shown that this method restored the role of non-functional ovaries and resulted in the birth of fertile offsprings.

“Our group also successfully restored spermatogenesis (sperm production) in non-functional mouse testis by transplanting niche (mesenchymal) cells, into the testis,” Bhartiya said.

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In the light of these findings, she says the field of oncofertility may undergo a sea-change and existing strategies of cryopreservation of gametes and gonadal tissue for fertility preservation in cancer patients will have to be revised. “Pilot clinical studies (in humans) need to be undertaken.”

“VSELs may be an alternative cell source for induced Pluripotent Stem (iPS) clls,” Balu Manohar, managing director of Stempeutics Research, a Bengaluru-based stem cell company told this correspondent. “But it is still far away from the clinic as isolation and large scale expansion of these cells has to be standardised.” (IANS)