AWAKENINGS

Human Embryonic Stem Cell Therapy Restores Hope for Amanda

Feb. 2nd–The Age Newspaper: Controversial stem cell treatment draws Australians to Indian clinic

Amrit Dhillon, a reporter from Delhi initially wrote a very positive article on Dr. Shroff.  It was the editors from Australian newspaper, The Age, who put a little negative spin on the article.  All in all, it’s good.  Dr. Shroff continues to help her patients realize one small miracle of life at a time. 
Controversial stem cell treatment draws Australians to Indian clinic
Amanda Boxtel with her mother, Jill, (left) at the Delhi clinic.
Convinced: Amanda Boxtel with her mother, Jill, (left) at the Delhi clinic.
Photo: Supplied
Amrit Dhillon
February 2, 2008
UNABLE to speak because motor neurone disease has destroyed the muscles in her throat, Lorraine Glendinning sits on the bed of a clinic in Delhi typing “I should be in a wheelchair by now. Or dead. But I can still walk,” on her laptop.Then she looks up with a wicked grin to see the reaction. She says her doctor at Cooloola Cove, Queensland, told her: “Go home, sit in a wheelchair and get ready to die.”

The terminal and degenerative disease destroys motor neurones, the cells that control voluntary muscle activity such as speaking, walking, breathing and swallowing.

When Ms Glendinning, 61, flew to India for her first embryonic stem cell treatment by Dr Geeta Shroff and Dr Ashish Verma last year, she drooled, shuffled like an old woman and had become reclusive.

By the time she returned home, the cells had worked a seeming miracle. It had cost her about $A40,000, including the airfares for herself and a friend.

“Within two months I was dancing, I put on weight and could use my exercise bike. My mood was wonderful. I didn’t dribble. My son could not believe how I was walking with long strides instead of shuffling. That’s why he has paid for me to come again,” she taps out.

Ms Glendinning says she checked Dr Shroff’s extraordinary claims on the internet. A fertility specialist, Dr Shroff, 44, began developing embryonic stem cell lines to treat terminal and incurable conditions in 2000. Since 2002, she has treated about 500 patients suffering from spinal cord injuries, cardiac conditions, diabetes, Alzheimer’s, motor neurone disease and Parkinson’s.

In the West, this controversial therapy is still at the research stage. Human trials have not yet taken place.

The reception area of the Nu-tech Mediworld clinic is full of Indians and foreigners — Arabs, Africans, Japanese, Australians, Americans, Britons.

Dr Verma describes the powers of embryonic stem cells to form most of the cells in the human body and to home in mysteriously on the tissue, nerve or organ that needs repair.

To critics, the doctors are irresponsible for giving embryonic stell cell injections while the procedure is not fully tested.

But Dr Shroff insists her therapy is safe. She says she sees quadriplegics and paraplegics starting to walk with the help of calipers, regaining bladder and bowel control and feeling sensation in limbs.

“I am totally confident of my work. I have documented all my cases and every result is replicable,” she says. “People can’t wait, someone has to take a leap.”

Dr Verma is equally emphatic. Our goal is that anyone anywhere in the world with an incurable condition should get this treatment at their doorstep for an affordable price.”

Ms Glendinning is angry at having to travel to India for treatment. But a spokesman for Health Minister Nicola Roxon says: “In general, we don’t place restrictions on people’s travel but we like to let people know that the Australian Government has no control over the safety and quality of health care provided in other countries.”

The British news channel, Sky News, in a 2006 report on Dr Shroff, interviewed dozens of patients. All reported improvements. But Stephen Minger, the director of King’s College London stem cell biology laboratory, told Sky News the treatment was: “highly implausible and downright dangerous”.

“If the Indian Government wants to promote stem cell research, then it needs to seriously look at regulation of these doctors and, if necessary, close them down.” He said Dr Shroff had repeatedly failed to offer documented and scientific proof of her work.

The Indian Government has no legislation governing the research.

The Indian Council for Medical Research in Delhi issued some draft guidelines last year but its deputy director-general, Dr Vasanti Muthuswamy, refused to say whether Dr Shroff’s work conformed.

“We visited her clinic a couple of years ago to investigate her work and have submitted our report to the Government. I cannot say what is in that report until it is released by the Government,” he said.

In effect, Dr Shroff is working in a largely unregulated field.

But for supporters such as Amanda Boxtel, the potential to overcome pain and paralysis overrides concerns.

Like Ms Glendinning, this is her second visit. A Brisbane woman, Ms Boxtel lives in Colorado. Sixteen years ago, she became paralysed from the waist down after a skiing accident shattered vertebrae.

After receiving stem cell injections at the clinic last year, she astounded her mother Jill.

“She used to use her hands to lift up her legs and now she was lifting them out of the wheelchair without using her arms,” says Mrs Boxtel.

Ms Boxtel says her toes move, her bladder and bowels have begun to function, and she has increased muscle power in her legs. “It’s miraculous,” she says. “To see a 1% improvement is miraculous. To see more is mind-blowing.”

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2 Comments»

  Jyoti Naik wrote @

Hi Amanda

After reading your experience likewise I am a T12 para and so made a visit to see Dr Schroff on 18th March 2008.
She was very frank and said I could go in Sept/Oct but would have to stay 2months. I have regularly been doing physio , tried the braces but they did not suit me.. For the last 6yrs I have been training on the treadmill by harness and para.bars so Dr Schroff feels I would be a good candidate. expecially since my legs are pretty toned up.. My question to you is did u ever have lot of physio prior to this treatment… If possible If you give me a time I would really like to talk to you person to person .
India is always a experience and lucky for me with my husband with me we travel a lot .ofcourse no hotel is wheelchair friendly.
Would love to hear from you

regds
Jyoti

  melku wrote @

Hi Amanda,
I am impressed by your story. Could you please tell me the telephone # and address of the clinic?

thanks


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