SOME leading Australian scientists have issued warnings about the growth of stem cell tourism as an Indian doctor who administers a controversial treatment arrived in the country.
Dr Geeta Shroff, who offers human embryonic stem cell therapy from a private clinic in Delhi, has travelled to Australia to be a guest speaker at a fund-raiser in Melbourne tonight.
A gynaecologist, Dr Shroff has developed embryonic stem cell lines that have been used to treat people with conditions including spinal cord injuries, Parkinson's and motor neurone disease.
She says her therapy, which can cost tens of thousands of dollars, is safe and can result in improved movement and sensation in limbs.
But critics say it is not safe to administer human embryonic stem cells when they have not been properly tested, and there is no evidence of its effectiveness in treating human disease.
"It would be dangerously irresponsible to administer embryonic stem cells to any human subject for any reason," said University of Melbourne emeritus professor of medicine, Jack Martin.
"If there is ever a place for human embryonic stem cells in treatment, it will be very many years from now."
Professor Richard Boyd, director of the Monash Immunology and Stem Cell Laboratories, says while he hopes Dr Shroff is correct about the success of her methods, they needed to be subjected to independent scientific scrutiny.
Among the organisers of tonight's fund-raiser is Vivienne Rowe, whose son Louis, a paraplegic, says he has regained movement and feeling in his legs after receiving Dr Shroff's treatment.