Thane resident Rohit Nishar (18) underwent a kidney transplant 10 months ago. But unlike other transplant patients, the commerce student doesn’t have to take tablets daily to ensure his body doesn’t reject the kidney donated by his father.
This is because of stem cell therapy at the Institute of Kidney Diseases and Research Centre, Ahmedabad.
As part of a research, doctors at the institute transplant stem cells taken from the donor’s body into the patient before transplanting the kidney. This is meant to reduce chances of rejection and end dependence on immunosuppressant drugs, which weaken the immune system.
Rohit, who had suffered kidney failure two years ago, is one of the 1,400 patients who have undergone this unique transplant over the last 12 years. “We were getting mixed results. Some patients had to be put on immunosuppressants. But we kept fine-tuning the procedure. The last 26 cases have been very successful,” said nephrologist Dr HL Trivedi.
If the procedure proves successful with more patients in the long run, it could benefit countless patients who have to live on strong and costly drugs after the transplant.
Pradeep Nishar had decided to donate one of his kidneys to Rohit because regular dialysis was disrupting his studies. “I decided to go to Ahmedabad because Rohit is young. I did not want him to take drugs for the rest of his life,” he said.
The procedure started about three weeks before the transplant in June 2009. Doctors first removed a slice of fat from Pradeep’s abdomen during a minor surgery and, two days later, they extracted marrow from his hipbone. These were sent to a laboratory so specific stem cells could be separated and multiplied.
These cultured stem cells were injected into Rohit’s liver. Stem cells collected from Pradeep’s blood were also injected into Rohit’s body a week before the transplant.
“Stem cells become veto cells which destroy the cells that cause rejection of foreign organs. We put them in the liver so they move inside the immune system,” said Dr Trivedi.
He added that if the patients develop complications, they put him/her on immunosuppresants like other transplant patients.
Pradeep has kept his fingers crossed. “Rohit is doing very well without the drugs so far,” he said.
According to Dr Bharat Shah, founder member, Narmada Kidney Foundation, it is estimated that 30 to 40 per cent of kidney diseases in India are due to diabetes.
But early detection of the disease can help contain the problem. A routine urine and blood test is sufficient.
“Once the problem is known, patients can slow down and even stop chronic kidney disease, by taking medicines and changing dietary and lifestyle habits,” said Shah.