A BRISBANE dad who has optic atrophy has regained his sight after receiving controversial embryonic stem-cell treatment in India. It reversed 15 years of degradation.Doctors told Martin Pitts, 35, he would never be able to see properly again after he was diagnosed with the eye disease optic atrophy at the age of nine. The condition, which affects the optic nerve, caused his sight to slowly deteriorate until all he could see were dark and light shapes. But after seven weeks of stem-cell injections, which cost more than $45,000, tests have revealed Mr Pitts' optic nerve is growing back, and his eyesight is back to the level it was 15 years ago, he says.
Mr Pitts also has diabetes. Following the treatment, he says he has been able to reduce his insulin dosage to a third of what it used to be. "My sight has come back to me and I can see details on objects again," he told The Sunday Mail. "I was unsure about having the treatment at first, but I was willing to try anything to be able to see again. "I'm amazed with the outcome. It's changed my life."
Dr Frank Occhino, of Corinda Medical Practice, has been Mr Pitts' GP for almost 20 years and said the sudden improvements to his health were "significant" "Mr Pitts can definitely see far more than he did before he went to India, and his diabetes is far better as well," the doctor said. Mr Pitts is among 300 patients to be treated in New Delhi by controversial stem-cell pioneer Dr Geeta Shroff. The treatment, forbidden in Australia, involves collecting stem cells from embryos and injecting them into injured or diseased patients. When taken from embryos, the cells are undeveloped and are better able to replace damaged tissue.
Dr Shroff has collected a bank of stem cells from a single embryo. Mr Pitts first heard about the treatment after reading a report in The Sunday Mail in April 2007, which told how paralysed mum Sonja Smith was walking again after being treated at Dr Shroff's clinic. Three months later, he paid $30,000 for four weeks of daily injections into his arms and injections into the optic nerves behind the eyes.
In January, Mr Pitts, a State Government software designer, returned to India and paid a further $15,000 for three more weeks of injections. He is now preparing for one more trip to India to complete the treatment, and hopes to find a sponsor "It's a lot of money to pay and I can't afford it on my own, but if I want to keep improving then I need to finish the treatment," he said.
Last week, Gold Coast man Perry Cross, who was paralysed from the neck down after a rugby accident, revealed how he was also treated at Dr Shroff's clinic, and can now breathe without the aid of a ventilator for the first time in 14 years. However, the treatment is not without its critics, who say it is irresponsible and unethical. Dr Shroff shrugged off the scepticism. "These are people who are desperate and I have given them hope. What's wrong with that?" she said. Australian legislation was passed in 2006, allowing scientists to clone human embryos to extract stem cells – but only for research. In Queensland, legislation was passed in State Parliament in October last year, paving the way for research involving embryonic stem cells.
June 01, 2008 12:00am
Sent in by L Minor. Ontario Canada.
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