Warning on stem cell travel (18 November 2011) Adelaide Now
Australians are putting their lives at risk by travelling overseas for stem cell therapy not available here.
That’s according to Australian Stem Cells Centre director of scientific affairs and policy Dr Megan Munsie.
The new $21 million research collaboration between Australia’s leading research universities and research organisations in stem cell science also publishes advice to patients.
Dr Munsie said experimental therapies posed significant health risks, including infection, immune system rejection and possibly cancer.
“My alarm bell goes off when I see people advertising to treat things from erectile dysfunction or chronic fatigue syndrome to stroke, with the same treatment,” she said.
“It just doesn’t seem reasonable and likely (to work), coupled with the fact that they are charging large sums of money.”
Dr Munsie and colleagues interviewed 16 patients and carers about their experiences overseas.
She said people often decided to make the trip without consulting their doctor and focused on the potential benefits rather than the risks.
Former London stockbroker Peter Couche, 61, from Toorak Gardens, suffered an irreversible brain-stem stroke on a business trip in 1992.
Now he is a quadriplegic with what’s called locked-in syndrome. He can’t speak and has little muscle control but his brain is alert.
In his book, Lifelines, Mr Couche shares his experience using umbilical cord stem cells.
“Three months after the treatment in Rotterdam, almost to the day, I began to notice changes,” he said.
“At first it was a strengthening of my limbs, then improved flexibility in my fingers … but the most significant improvement occurred to my swallowing.”
Coincidence, placebo effect or more, Simona Couche said she did not know but could not deny her husband the chance of a cure.
“In Peter’s condition, when you have been in a wheelchair for 18 years and there is a window that opens up, something that is new that gives you hope, you are prepared to try anything,” she said.
In association with the Robinson Institute and the University of Adelaide, Mr Couche established the Peter Couche Foundation to raise funds to support the Stem Cell for Stroke research of the Robinson Institute.
By science reporter Clare Peddie
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