Melbourne, May 27 : Using a special kind of stem cell treatment, Indian doctor Geeta Shroff has been successful in enabling a paralyzed man breathe on his own for the first time in 14 years.
Perry Cross was left a quadriplegic on life support after breaking his neck in a rugby union game when he was 19. He has been unable to move from the neck down ever since. But since undergoing embryonic stem cell treatment in India eight weeks ago, Cross is now able to breathe without a ventilator and sit unaided for short periods of time.
"After 14 years of no change at all since my accident, I can now breathe on my own,'' The Australian quoted him, as saying.
"You know, you put your lottery numbers in every week and I feel by coming here, my lottery numbers have finally come up," he added.
Cross has been injected with embryonic stem cells, a form of treatment banned in Australia and most other Western countries.
He now hopes the treatment will help him regain movement in other parts of his body.
"Even if I managed to move a finger or one hand, it would be worth it,'' he said.
Dr. Shroff has been criticised by some medical professionals who claim she has not published papers about her research or revealed how she uses the stem cells.
But Dr. Shroff, who has treated about 500 patients in India, defended her research, saying she had taken out a patent to protect her work and published it on the Internet.
For Cross, she injected stem cells derived from a "throwaway'' embryo developed during an IVF cycle for a woman who had given her "full consent'' to Dr Shroff's research.
Dr Shroff said she was confident it was the stem cells that had begun repairing the damage to Cross's spinal cord and allowed him to finally breathe on his own and sit unaided.
"Today he is breathing within eight weeks of starting treatment. No rehab can allow for a person to breathe on their own if their lungs are not working, if their spinal cord is not working. So if it has happened eight weeks after the stem cells (being injected), then obviously it is the human embryonic stem cells that is working," Dr. Shroff said.
Dr Shroff said she hoped her technology would be made available around the world to patients suffering from incurable diseases and terminal conditions.
"I believe this would change medicine, it is the beginning of a new era in medicine,'' she said.