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Thread: To China for a cure

  1. #1

    To China for a cure

    To China for a cure

    For $30,000, clinics offer stem cell therapies unavailable here. Do they deliver?

    China is not normally considered a world leader in surgical advances, but according to a number of its doctors (and the Canadian patients they’ve treated), it has leapfrogged ahead in stem cell treatments. A growing number of people are travelling to China for a $30,000 experimental treatment: stem cell injections. Most, like New Brunswicker Jean Christophe Haas, 40, decide to go because they have a debilitating illness and there isn’t much that Western medicine can do for them.

    Haas has Machado-Joseph disease (MJD), a terminal neuromuscular disease that affects the body in a similar way to Parkinson’s, paralyzing it gradually. Although he was diagnosed 20 years ago, it took some years for the symptoms to become noticeable. At first, only his sense of balance and his coordination were affected. Then his speech began to suffer and he started slurring his words. In 2004, he had to stop work as an army mechanic because his motor skills were no longer up to par and, in the past couple of years, he started seeing double. His family felt an overwhelming sense of panic, especially because Haas’s mother had the same disease, and his grandmother died of it. His desperation was compounded by the sense that Canadian doctors had given up on him completely; one told him there was nothing to do but to accept his fate of an early death, says his wife, Cherie Haas. “It’s awful for a young man with a family to go in and hear that. It’s heartbreaking.”

    Ms. Haas searched the Web and found stories of other MJD patients who seemed to have been helped by stem cell therapy at various Chinese hospitals. Many of these good news stories are posted on personal blogs or on the websites of the clinics offering the treatments. There are thousands of these testimonials, suggesting that hundreds of people go every year, says Timothy Caulfield, Canada Research Chair in Health Law and Policy at the University of Alberta, who has published studies on this issue.

    Advertising on the Internet, these Chinese medical centres promise to treat a surprisingly extensive range of diseases and conditions, including ALS, autism, brain injuries, cerebral palsy, epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s, spinal muscular atrophy, septo-optic dysplasia (which can cause seeing difficulties, blindness and mental retardation), spinal cord injuries and stroke. Foreigners are a major source of funds for the clinics. Some doctors like Dr. Huang Hongyun, a neuroscientist at Beijing Xishan Hospital, have treated many patients from outside China, including some from Canada, and he has published a number of papers in Chinese medical journals tracking patients pre- and post-procedure. And yet some North American doctors are critical of how the data was compiled, and skeptical of the treatments on offer.

    Once Jean Haas decided to go, he told his plans to Guy Rouleau, a neurologist at Centre Hospitalier de l’Université de Montréal, who said there were slight risks of complications, and that it would probably be a waste of money. But otherwise he didn’t try to dissuade him. Raising the money for the trip was easier than expected: much of the town of Oromocto, N.B., pitched in to raise the $30,000, with neighbours’ kids shovelling driveways to help out, and the military and community organizations hosting breakfasts and fundraisers. In April 2007, he and his wife travelled to Shenzhen, China, and stayed a little more than a month. During that time, Haas had six injections of stem cells into his spine, and an intense program of physiotherapy, exercise, massage and acupuncture. The results were immediate, he says—his balance improved just a few hours after the first procedure. Back in Canada, his neurologist confirmed that Haas had indeed gotten better: he had about 10 to 15 per cent more movement, according to Rouleau, who examined him before and after the trip. It’s difficult to speculate why this occurred, but Rouleau believes the intense physiotherapy was the primary cause.


  2. #2
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Sep 2001
    New York USA
    When they have a complete recovery after doing this surgery on a quad, let me know, otherwise I will save my $30,000 for a new wheelchair. Even though I C3 15% is not good enough...

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