Mumbai: One may say that diabetes is rapidly becoming a global epidemic which spares neither adults nor young children and adolescents. The cause for concern is the need for lifetime medications and/or insulin to manage symptoms and prevent complications. Also, the emotional and financial burden posed by various forms of diabetes (Type 1, Type 2, Gestational Diabetes and Latent Autoimmune Diabetes in adults) raises the need for the development of newer definitive therapeutic modalities.
According to doctor’s Type 1 diabetes is becoming one of the most common illnesses in young individuals. India is home to close to 97,000 children with Type 1 diabetes. Although this type constitutes only 5-10 percent of the total population, it has serious short and long-term consequences.
“Type 1 diabetes is caused due to Genetic and environmental factors as well as disorders of immune mechanism,” said doctors. The International Diabetes Federation [IDF] 8th Atlas 2017 also corroborated the view saying that India is inching closer in overtaking China to have the largest population of people with diabetes: Over 72.9 million are living with diabetes currently and this is expected to go up to 134.3 million by 2045. The atlas also pointed out that one in six births globally (16.2%) is affected by Gestational Diabetes Mellitus (GDM).
Lifestyle and diet are two other factors that play a major role in the prognosis of diabetes. Food is a major concern for parents as children, in particular, tend to have specific tastes and can be quite demanding. This poses even greater difficulty when the child is diabetic.
Diabetes is associated with microvascular (retinopathy, nephropathy, and neuropathy) and macrovascular (cardiovascular, cerebrovascular, and peripheral vascular disease) complications. “Anyone of the forms of diabetes that affects young individuals and by far, is the most challenging to manage considering the early age of onset of the condition,” said doctor.
Dr Pradeep Mahajan says “You carry your own repairing kits in your body.” He believes in the power of cellular therapy to address the root cause of many conditions rather than palliative management of symptoms. The rationale behind the use of cellular therapy for diabetes is that stem cells have a tremendous regenerative capacity and the flexibility to grow into different types of cells. Progenitor cells in the human body are capable of differentiating in vivo to produce beta cells – the islet cells that manufacture insulin – as well as pancreatic islet cells. A cell-based approach to insulin replacement has been shown to ultimately improve glucose control in patients with Type 1 diabetes. Furthermore, mesenchymal stem cells have an immunomodulatory property that aids in restoring immune homeostasis/balance in the body.
Cellular therapy protocol at StemRx involves harvesting cells from the patients’ own body (autologous stem cells) from bone marrow, fat tissue, and peripheral blood. These sources are rich in mesenchymal stem cells and have the advantage of the availability of cells and ease of harvest. After activation, the cells are transplanted into the appropriate site in the patients’ body. Hospitalisation is advised for 48 hours after the procedure to monitor the general condition of the patient and to allow for homing of cells. Since the source of cells is from the patients’ own body, treatment is safe and is not associated with any adverse events.
Results of cellular therapy are generally observed after 1-2 sessions of cellular therapy. Reduction in blood glucose levels are noticed along with improvement in the general health of patients. However, changes in the patients’ ongoing insulin doses/oral hypoglycaemic drugs are made only after a steady state of blood glucose is achieved. Accordingly, a dosage is adjusted and ultimately discontinuation of medications/insulin may be advised.
Cellular therapy addresses the root cause of diabetes, i.e. beta-cell destruction and insulin resistance. Therefore, results achieved, although gradual, are permanent. The number of sessions of cellular therapy required differs with each individual, based on age, diabetic status and presence of co-morbid conditions as well as lifestyle. Additionally, patient compliance with respect to the following diet and allied therapies is equally important to achieve optimum benefit from therapy.