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Epilepsy, or fits affects approximately 70 million people globally. India has approximately 12 million individuals suffering from the condition. Although there are several drugs to help patients keep their attacks under control, in recent years, the number of cases of drug-resistant epilepsy has increased. Such patients do not respond to conventional medicines and require surgery or stimulation-based therapies. Of course, not all patients can be candidates for surgery; therefore, many tend to develop severe disability and become dependent on their families/caregivers. Thus, the need of the hour is a novel, effective, and minimally invasive treatment, which would ideally be suitable for patients of all ages.
Regenerative medicine is one such modality that can help in treatment of the condition. This therapy uses cells and growth factors derived from the patient's own body to stimulate natural healing mechanisms. As we know, the body is capable of healing itself take for example, skin wound rarely requires major treatments for the wound to heal. This healing is mediated by cells and growth factors of the body, which coordinate various reparative and regenerative mechanisms. The issue with internal health conditions is that, sometimes the disease load is so high that some external support is required. The best way to achieve this is by providing the body with a high concentration of the required cells and growth factors.
In case of epilepsy, these molecules would improve the function of the existing nerve cells, protect the brain cells, reduce any inflammation, and aid in growth of healthy cells. Overall, the environment in the brain itself is modulated; therefore, the symptoms (fits) can be controlled.
In today's times though, a holistic approach is required for management of any health condition. A robust combination of therapies for epilepsy control is regenerative medicine (cell-based therapy), neuromodulation, yoga, dietary modifications, and stress management.
For example, a ketogenic diet, which is a high-fat, low-carbohydrate diet, has been shown to control seizures in some people with epilepsy. It has been considered that ketogenic diet stabilises the function of nerve cells exposed to the electrical challenges. However, the healthcare professional and dietician should be consulted before beginning any new diet. Likewise, neuromodulatory therapies like transcranial magnetic and direct stimulation techniques can either enhance or reduce the activity in the targeted brain region. Yoga, as we all know, is a system of exercises associated with breath control and balance of physical and mental/emotional/psychological aspects of the body. A combination of such therapies will help in long-term, definitive control of symptoms, and enable the individual lead an independent life.
Epilepsy carries a social stigma in our country. Such patients are considered to have behavioral/mental health problems. The first approach is to create awareness about what exactly epilepsy is, and then about how it can be managed more effectively with novel, holistic treatment strategies. Depending on the severity, it may be possible to gradually reduce the dose of anti-epileptic medicines (and possibly stop it altogether), as regenerative medicine and allied therapies focus on utilizing the inherent healing potential of the body."
The article is contributed by Dr. Pradeep Mahajan, Regenerative Medicine Researcher, StemRx Bioscience Solutions Pvt. Ltd., Mumbai.
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