Jul 5, 2014, 5:58 PM
News Code: 2720319
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Stem cell therapy in Iran

Tehran, July 5, IRNA -- The emerging field of treatment called regenerative medicine or cell therapy refers to treatments that are founded on the concept of producing new cells to replace malfunctioning or damaged cells to treat disease and injury.

An eminent Iranian researcher, Dr. Nasser Aqdami, has carried out extensive research on cell therapy.

Aqdami, 43, received his MD from Orumieh Medical University in 1998 and his PhD in immunology from Tehran’s Tarbiat Modarres University in 2007.

He is the head of Royan Institute’s Cell Therapy Center since 2008 and the head of the institute’s Department of Regenerative Medicine from 2006.

Aqdami has published 21 international and 10 national peer-reviewed papers and has been awarded a research scholarship by Health Ministry in 2006. He also received Travel Award from the International Society for Stem Cell Research in 2008.

Iran Daily conducted an exclusive interview with Aqdami, excerpts of which follow:

IRAN DAILY: Would you please expand on cell therapy's potential in treating arthritis and osteoporosis?

AQDAMI: Stem cell therapy is well suited for treating genetic diseases, spinal cord injuries, different types of cancer or tissue damage resulting, for instance, from a heart attack when medications can't cure the disease or stop its progression.

Stem cells can be generated in laboratories and transformed into specialized cell types.

The goal of regenerative medicine is to produce functional cells to replace malfunctioning or damaged cells to treat diseases and injuries such as bone and cartilage diseases.

Stem cell treatment may be an option for treating osteoporosis, broken bones that don’t heal properly and cartilages detached from the end of bones. It can also help cure bone cyst and arthritis.

Stem cell therapy for osteoporosis could potentially reduce the susceptibility of fractures by either increasing the numbers or restoring the function of resident cells that can proliferate.

There are different accessible sources of stem cells in humans. Stem cells can be taken from umbilical cord blood just after birth.

Embryonic stem (ES) cells have also been proposed as candidate for future therapies. There are currently no approved treatments using ES cells and we do not use them in cell therapy in Iran because of their abilities for unlimited expansion and can cause cancer.

Adult stem cells are stem cells that maintain and repair the tissue in which they are found. Mesenchymal stem cells are used in treating arthritis.

What are Royan's latest achievements in treating arthritis and osteoporosis?

Clinical trials have been conducted in three phases on 6, 18 and 50 patients suffering from arthritis.

The patients were divided into two categories. The first category received stem cell therapy and the second were given placebo. Results of the study showed cell therapy was more effective than placebo.

We are conducting researches on animals for treating osteoporosis and clinical trials have not been launched yet.

Your patients are in which age-group?

Patients suffering from arthritis are of ages 50 to 65.

When did Royan Institute launch research on cell therapy?

It started its studies on cell therapy 10 years ago in 2004.

How many patients receive cell therapy each day in Royan Institute?

At present, one patient daily receives cell therapy at Royan Institute, but by next year we will be able to treat 10 patients daily and five years later, 100 patients daily will receive cell therapy.

How much does cell therapy costs in Iran compared with those in foreign countries?

The cost of cell therapy in Iran is about one-twentieth of the cost of the treatment in other countries, but Iran’s insurance companies do not cover the cost of this type of treatment.

When will the first cell therapy hospital's construction begin in Iran? The construction was supposed to start some four years ago.

Government officials promised to help Royan Institute establish the hospital and I’m hopeful that it will be constructed soon.