Shahid Akhter, editor, ETHealthworld spoke to Dr Na’eem Sadiq, Medical Director, PLEXUS NEURO and STEM CELL RESEARCH CENTER, Bengaluru to know more about stem cell therapy and the challenges associated with it.
STEM CELL : TRENDS
Stem cell is a word which evokes lot of responses both positive and negative. Few people know that the origin was in the 1800s. The very first bone marrow transplant happened in the year 1968 and then subsequently stem cells have been used for various diseases and much more in blood cancer. They have also been used in chronic neurological disorders, autoimmune disorders and sports injuries.
Globally, it’s all over the world such as in the US, Canada, Germany, China, Ukraine and of course in India as well. In India there are lots of centers and states who have been practicing stem cell technology for quite some time.
STEM CELLS : MARKET
The market is growing since stems cells promise hope for those who have lost hope, where there is no viable treatment and proper cure available for lots of diseases. Stem cells is emerging as a champion for all these people. It was much more available internationally and in the last decade India has taken up.
STEM CELLS : CHALLENGES
The challenges in stem cells is akin to any new technology. The moment it comes, there are lots of myths and misconceptions. The most important challenge, which we had faced was the cost factor. It was hugely expensive abroad, but we have successfully been able to bring down the cost to less than 1/10th of the international market and we are serving the Indian community.
PLEXUS NEURO AND STEM CELL RESEARCH CENTER- JOURNEY
I have been practicing in the field of neuroscience for the last 30 years. Neurosciences is a field where you see patients suffering from chronic diseases. I have been in this field right from early 90’s and have been seeing trends changing, but when it comes to neurodegenerative disorders such as Parkinson’s, ALS, Multiple Sclerosis, billions of dollars have been spent, new treatment modalities have been found, but nothing has been found to be successful.
We started Plexus in 2011, a very small center with 3 rooms and with about 5 people. It has been 8 years and we have had more than sixteen thousand patients. The fundamental principle, which we have at Plexus is that we do not accept all the patients who come to us. In fact over the last 8 years, our data shows that we have accepted less than 10 percent of the patients who approach us.
We have very strict and rigid eligibility criteria. Once the patient approaches us, we subject the patient to a thorough clinical examination, which lasts anywhere between 2- 3 hours. Once we find that the patient is clinically treatable, or that the patient can be helped, then we subject the patient to other investigations.
The other major difference we have at Plexus is that we do not do only stem cells. Stem cell therapy is a part of our complete regenerative rehabilitation. The program starts after we do the transplant. The patient undergoes rigorous rehabilitation, which includes the entire gamete of practices such as physical therapy, occupational therapy, hand splinting, cognitive rehabilitation therapy, cognitive behavior therapy, speech therapy etc.
We customize and provide a tailor made program as per the patient’s needs, with a goal once the patient joins the program and almost all the patients who are in the program get more than what we had aimed at achieving. At the end of the program we evaluate the goals and find that every single patient achieves them. We train the patients as to what they need to do once they finish the program and insist on regular follow up.
We have a team of learned scientists who are all qualified from the UK and our research is ongoing. We are working exclusively in the field of neurosciences to get the best quality of cells and to make it very affordable. Research is on and our data is huge, we will be publishing the results very soon.
PLEXUS : FUTURE PLANS
We have a complete state of the art rehabilitation center where we have some of the best therapists in the world working with us. In fact a few months back we launched one of its kind, Sensory Gym at Plexus and now we have started virtual and augmented reality.
In the last 4-5 years we have received more than 75 national and international awards and we stand as one of the leading regenerative rehabilitation centers not only in India, but in Asia.
Our endeavor here is to make the treatment the best possible, to make the cells much more advanced, affordable to also provide the treatment in the shortest possible time.