Stem cell transplants could offer the prospect of "science fiction-like" treatments to repair the human body in the future. But some desperately ill people are looking for a cure now.

Stem cells are the factory of our entire body.

They can reproduce themselves by dividing and multiplying into identical cells, giving them the potential to form any type of tissue.

On this basis, if stem cells offer the possibility of repairing every tissue in the body, does stem cell therapy have the potential to cure diseases where the problem is at cellular level, such as Parkinson's, multiple schlerosis, muscular dystrophy and many more?

Quite possibly, but this treatment is controversial because the cells are harvested from fertilised embryos and aborted foetuses.

Leading researchers in the US have had their funding cut by the Bush administration because of these ethical issues.

But with the science still unproven, many desperately ill people are seeking help in other countries where clinical work with embryonic stem cells is permitted, such as Ukraine.

Stem cell bank
Twenty-year-old Stefano Tricarico makes the journey from his home in Italy to a clinic in the Ukraine that he thinks will help to save or improve his life.

He has terminal muscular dystrophy and feels he must go. "I realised that it was the only chance I had if I wanted to continue to have a decent life," he says.

In a private clinic in Kiev he meets Professor Alexander Smikodub who is offering Stefano stem cell therapy for 15,000 euro (£10,000).

Some of Professor Smikodub's patients say he is helping them and changing their lives, but his critics say the work has not been properly scientifically tested.

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