Australian Quadriplegic Thanks Maverick Indian Stem Cell Doctor for Ability to Breathe

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A man who is paralyzed from the neck down says he can now breathe on his own after having controversial embryonic stem cell treatment in India.

Perry Cross is the most high-profile patient to have traveled to India to be injected with the cells - which are banned in his own country Australia and most of the West.

He was left a quadriplegic after being injured playing rugby when just 19 years old and has no movement below his neck.

He has to be connected to a ventilator to breathe and has spent the past 14 years searching for treatment which might help him regain any movement.

During this time, Mr. Cross met Superman actor Christopher Reeve and became the actor's ambassador for stem cell research in Australia.

He has since spoken at the United Nations and is a regular contributor to television and radio debates on the virtues of the research.

He also set up a Foundation to raise money to help find new ways to fight paralysis, which is supported by star Australian cricketer Adam Gilchrist.

"After 14 years of no change at all since my accident, I can now breathe on my own," he told Sky News.

"You know, you put your lottery numbers in every week and I feel by coming here, my lottery numbers have finally come up."

It took a huge leap of faith to travel to India.

The doctor who is administering the stem cells is a controversial figure in her own country and abroad.

Dr. Geeta Shroff is viewed as a bit of a maverick within the medical world because of her fierce determination to do her work under her own terms and in her own way.

She researched her treatment without any grants or financial help and virtually single-handedly developed it over two years, beginning the work in a small lab she set up in her garage.
She now has two hospitals in the capital New Delhi where she treats her own countrymen and women who have terminal conditions or incurable afflictions.

But she also has an increasing number of international patients - mainly from countries like Australia, America and Britain where there are much tighter controls on the use of embryonic stem cell treatment.
Consequently she has fallen out with much of the conventional medical establishment for steadfastly refusing to publish papers outlining her methods, research and technique.
Instead she has applied for a patent on her treatment to stop others from copying and marketing her work.

Dr. Shroff's critics point out that without knowing exactly what she is injecting and without proper clinical trials, it is impossible to say whether there are any long term side-effects and whether the treatment is safe.

She insists that over the five years she has been administering her treatment no patient has shown any adverse reactions.

Under Indian law, she is allowed to treat terminally ill and incurable conditions such as Parkinson's Disease, spinal injury and Alzheimer’s.

But this has led her detractors to claim she is offering false hope to desperate people and is essentially using them as guinea pigs.

Perry Cross - along with many of the 500 other patients Dr. Shroff is treating - is unconcerned by the controversy.

"I cannot tell you how restricting my life is in so many ways," he says.

"I can't breathe on my own, I can't bathe on my own. I can't swim or get wet, the list of things I can't do are a mile long. Why wouldn't I try everything?"

His team of carers who look after him 24/7 are astonished at his progress in the last two months since he traveled to India and started receiving injections every day.

Most of them have been with him for many years.

"This is massive," said one, "We have tried so many times over the years to get him off the ventilator but never could. It's amazing."

It has given him hope that with more stem cell treatment he may even be able to develop movement elsewhere in his body.

"Even if I managed to move a finger or one hand, it would be worth it," he says.