Americans flocking to India for stem cell therapy

Monday, May 28, 2012

Washington: A growing number of Americans are travelling to India to seek treatment for rare diseases through India’s experimental embryonic stem cell therapy, according to an investigative report.

Dr Geeta Shroff

Among them Cash Burnaman, a 6-year-old South Carolina boy, who travelled with his parents to India seeking treatment for a rare genetic condition that has left him developmentally disabled, CNN reported.

“Cash is mute. He walks with the aid of braces. To battle his incurable condition, which is so rare it doesn’t have a name, Cash has had to take an artificial growth hormone for most of his life,” it said.

His divorced parents, Josh Burnaman and Stephanie Krolick, have paid tens of thousands of dollars to have Cash undergo experimental injections of human embryonic stem cells at New Delhi’s NuTech Mediworld run by Dr Geeta Shroff, a retired obstetrician and self-taught embryonic stem cell practitioner.

Dr Shroff first treated Cash — who presents symptoms similar to Down Syndrome — in 2010. “I am helping improve their quality of life,” she told CNN.

After five weeks of treatment, Cash and his parents returned home to the US. That’s when Cash began walking with the aid of braces for the first time.

For four or five weeks of treatment, Dr Shroff says she has charged her 87 American patients an average of $25,000.

But doctors cited by CNN said all that work and hope and money Cash’s supporters have funnelled into his experimental therapy likely will have no medical benefits.

“There is zero evidence for what she (Dr Shroff) is doing being effective,” Rutgers University’s Dr Wise Young, a leading US neuroscientist, was quoted as saying.

“It’s concerning no matter how you look at it,” said CNN chief medical correspondent Dr Sanjay Gupta. “Frankly it’s the complete wrong way of going about this sort of science.”

A leading Indian neurosurgeon, Dr P N Tandon, cited by CNN agreed there was zero medical evidence of the effectiveness of embryonic stem cell therapy like that provided at NuTech Mediworld.

But inside her clinic, surrounded by patients, Shroff disagreed. “Success,” she told CNN, “is defined differently by various groups of people within that therapy mode. So as of right now, almost everyone — greater than 90 per cent — have had success.” [Source: IANS]

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