On Saturday, city doctors injected stem cells derived from the cord blood of a baby girl into the blood stream of her elder sister, who suffers from cerebral palsy./
Sarah Burnerwala, 9, was diagnosed with cerebral palsy when she was five months old. Her parents, Shabbir and Shammin Burnerwala, visited many hospitals to get her treated before they learnt about stem cell therapy.
"I never wanted a second child but doctors convinced me to have one to support Sarah. During my pregnancy, I learnt about the possibility of stem cells curing cerebral palsy. We could not afford the stem cell banking charges, but took a loan," said Shammin.
Last August, when Insia was born, the couple's hope to treat Sarah strengthened.
According to Dr Abhijit Bopardikar, director of Reelabs, they injected about 10 million stem cells derived from Insia's cord blood, placenta and amniotic fluid intravenously to Sarah.
"We have decided to give five to six doses depending on her improvement within six months," said Bopardikar.
He added that stem cell treatment is not classified as a therapy yet, because not many cases have been reported.
"But from our experience, stem cells derived from a patient's own body have helped improve cerebral palsy," he added.
However, others are skeptical.
"People are trying to treat cerebral palsy through stem cells, but it's not a proven therapy," said Dr Sangeeta Rawat, head of neurological department, KEM Hospital.
Mayur Abhaya, executive director, LifeCell International, a cord blood banking and tissue bank, said that till now, they had 18 cases of stem cells retrievals mostly for thalassemia and leukemia.
"Three months ago we had one retrieval for cerebral palsy wherein a newborn's own stem cells were used to treat him in Chennai," said Abhaya.