Docs use stem cells to cure premature baby’s lung disease

May 2, 2019

City doctors have used stem cells to save the life of a premature baby boy, who was suffering from a chronic lung disease. When all efforts failed to revive Rudransh Dubey’s lungs, who was born at 26 weeks (normal gestation period is 39 weeks), the doctors decided to try the stem cell therapy, which is in an experimental stage. They injected the baby with 40 million stem cells and gradually the lungs began to repair, and he could be weaned off the ventilator, continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine, and oxygen support step by step.

Rudransh was born on June 27 last year at a Malad hospital and he weighed merely 600 grams. “Premature babies like him have very tiny air sacks. Breathing for them thus becomes very difficult,” said neonatologist Dr. Nandkishore Kabra from Surya Hospital in Santacruz where Rudransh was shifted a month after his birth.

According to Dr. Kabra, the baby was put on all the possible lines of treatment like steroids, vitamins, and surfactant to develop the lungs and wean him off the ventilator support. However, his condition remained critical and he continued to require high-pressure ventilator support.

Rudransh had developed severe broncho pulmonary dysplasia. While in most cases, babies in such conditions lose their battle for life, in Rudransh’s case, the doctors and his parents decided to try the stem cell therapy as a last attempt. Third party stem cells derived from umbilical cord were sourced by Rudransh’s parents. The doctors injected about 40 million cells directly into the baby’s lungs through the intratracheal tube.

“About 10 days later, the baby’s ventilator support was going down. The lungs had begun to develop better,” Dr. Kabra said. Gradually, the baby was shifted on CPAP machine and then later on simple oxygen support with which he was discharged from the hospital on March 11. He weighed 4.6 kg at the time of discharge. “For the last few weeks, the baby has completely been off any breathing support,” he said.

Doctors said stem cells were used as a life-saving measure. “This therapy is not a standard of care. We have to exercise caution,” paediatrician Dr. Bhupendra Avasthi from Surya Hospital said.

He said the procedure was carried out free of cost. “The consent of the parents and the hospital’s ethics committee was taken, and the Declaration of Helsinki that provides guidance on medical research was followed to carry out the procedure,” Dr. Avasthi said.

Dr. Kabra said intra-pulmonary stem cell therapy in such a chronic lung disease has never been used before. “Researchers in Korea have used mesenchymal stem cells in babies as a prophylactic while researchers in Australia have used amnion stem cells intravenously in babies to see their safety. However, we have gone a step further and used stem cells in a baby as the last available therapy,” he said.

Rudransh’s parents refused to divulge the source from where they obtained the stem cells.

I kept on pushing the doctor to find an alternative. I have enormous faith in science and I know science does new things everyday,” said Pramod.

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