On her first day at work last month, when Dr Hemangi Sane stood before a group of junior doctors to give a lecture on internal medicine, she made sure that her voice was loud and clear.
Two years ago, Sane's voice was barely audible and her weakening muscles had left her unable to walk. Sane, 35, was diagnosed with motor neuron disease (MND) - a degenerative disease - in 2004.
"There is no cure for MND. Almost 50% of the patients die within two years of diagnosis," said Dr Alok Sharma, head of neurosurgery, Sion Hospital, who is treating Sane.
But in May, after a five-year break, Sane became well enough to join a city hospital as an honorary physician and trains junior doctors. Sane said the change in her condition is because of the relatively unknown stem cell therapy, which she been undergoing since 2009.
"The disease was rapidly spreading. First my fingers became weak, then the hands and lowers limbs," said the Dadar resident, who was diagnosed with the disease while working in the US after completing her MBBS from KEM Hospital at Parel and post-graduation from New York.
Soon, she could not lift her arms and getting up and sitting down became painful. She also had multiple falls.
In late 2006, Sane left her job. She returned to Mumbai in 2008. "I consulted seven specialists, tried ayurveda and touch therapy. However, nothing worked," she said.
In 2009, she read an article on Sion Hospital's stem cell laboratory conducting studies on incurable neurological diseases and decided to take a chance.
"We were treating spinal cord injury patients with stem cell therapy and getting good results. We had also begun treating patients with multiple sclerosis. We believed we could help Sane since the problems with all these conditions are within the nervous system," said Dr Sharma.
Bone marrow was taken from Sane's hipbone. Stem cells were separated from it and injected into her spine. For the last two years, Sane has undergone vigorous physiotherapy too.
"Slowly, she could move her toes, which had frozen. Her stamina increased and she stopped getting tired easily. She now walks using a walker," said her physiotherapist, Dr Pallavi Mayekar.
"More than the improvement, her deterioration has stopped. These stem cells resulted in the repair and regeneration of damaged motor neurons in her body," said Dr Sharma.
However, he cautions that stem cell therapy is not a cure. "It is a disease modifying treatment. It slows down the progression of the disease and brings functional improvements in the patients," he added.