Stem cells curing the incurable

by ALEXANDRIA QUIGLEY Staff Writer

Six-year-old South Carolinan Cash Burnaman traveled to New Dehli, India alongside his parents hoping to find treatment for his rare genetic condition that leaves him developmentally disabled. Cash walks with the aid of braces and is mute. His condition is so rare that it does not have a name. The little boy has had to take an artificial growth hormone for almost all of his life. Josh Burnaman and Stephanie Krolick, his divorced parents, are in desperate need of an answer for his condition, and they traveled to the other side of the earth. The parents spent thousands of dollars for experimental injections of human embryonic stem cells in hopes of curing Cash’s condition. However,  Burnaman and Krolick are not the only people seeking the treatment in India; they are among a growing number of Americans. The family travled to a clinic in the heart of New Dehli called NuTech Mediworld run by Dr. Geeta Shroff, a retired obstetrician. Dr. Shroff is a self-taught embryonic stem cell practitioner. Shroff treated Cash for the first time in 2010. Cash and his parents returned home after five weeks of treatment. After returning to the United States, Cash began walking for the first time with the aid of braces and his parents were thrilled. Krolick said that Cash could only get around by hopping before the braces. She was persuaded enough by the improvement that she wanted to go back to Shroff for more help. Cash’s family has its doubters, though. Cash’s father said he still is not totally convinced that the treatment works. “If we had taken away the stem cells and had not done it, is this where he would be naturally? And that’s where I keep coming back to is; I’m not sure,” said Burnaman. Shroff has treated patients suffering from all different conditions such as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS, more commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. Others include spinal cord injuries, cerebral palsy, and genetic and muscular skeletal disorders. “There is zero evidence for what she is doing being effective,” said Dr. Wise Young of Rutgers University, a leading U.S. neuroscientist. Shroff is not waiting for further research on stem cells. She wants to inject people now in hopes of curing their conditions. “Success is defined differently by various groups of people within that therapy mod. So as of right now, almost everyone- greater than 90% – have had success,” said Shroff. In the United States, there are no approved embryonic stem cell treatments. However, two experimental clinical trials in humans using stem cells have been approved by the Food and Drug Administration. “If my child ever had a condition like this and they were able to get amazing help like this, I would definitely continue treatments,” said freshman Shannon O’Scannell. Pure embryonic stem cells are not meant to be put directly in to the body because of the fact that they have the potential to turn in to any cell. “I have heard that it is not right to inject stem cells because they can turn in to any cell, but now that I know about the improvements, maybe it could be a good idea,” said freshman Caroline Earl. Dr. Shroff believes she is doing everything right and her treatments toward conditions that are called incurable will continue.

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