The Indian Psychiatric Society (IPS) – the professional body that represents psychiatrists in India, strongly condemned the use of stem cell therapy in psychiatric disorders, particularly autism, until such a time that research evidence substantiated its effectiveness.
IPS, in its position statement on stem cell therapy on January 17, said that till now, there is no scientifically validated and scrutinized research evidence that proves that stem cells are helpful in any psychiatric disorders including autism.
Autism is a complex neurodevelopmental disorder with no known single cause.
The advisory from the IPS comes at a time when stem cell therapy clinics that claim to have developed stem cell therapies to treat complex psychiatric problems such as autism, cerebral palsy (movement disorder), muscular dystrophy (weakness of muscles), mental retardation, spinal cord injury and brain stroke have mushroomed across the country.
These stem cell therapy centres extract stem cells from the bone marrow of each child and then inject it into the child’s spinal canal. The whole procedure takes place under general anaesthesia.
These clinics use aggressive marketing techniques and false claims to lure parents of children who are suffering from disease like autism.
The Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) has already published guidelines that cover the various diseases that are applicable for stem cell treatment. No psychiatric disorders, including autism, are listed there under this advisory.
Stem cells are special human cells that have the ability to develop into many different cell types, from muscle cells to brain cells. In some cases, they also have the potential to repair damaged tissues, and provide a cure for various diseases. But the clinical evidence at this point is low.
“Psychiatric disorders including autism are combined derangements of both neurodevelopmental and neurodegenerative trajectories of brain and are polygenetic in origin. So they actually are symptomatic manifestations of a variety of different pathogenetic processes about which scientific evidence is as yet inconclusive,” IPS said.
“Stem cells may have potential for regenerative medicine, but not have a place in the current form of therapy in psychiatry,” IPS added.