May 30, 2008 12:00am
LOUIS Rowe says he is living, walking proof that embryonic stem-cell therapy works.
And there are plenty of other Victorians keen to follow his footsteps to India in the hope of a miracle.
The 23-year-old paraplegic returned from New Delhi last Thursday after having the treatment he believes has put him back on his feet.
Mr Rowe was left a paraplegic after severing his spinal cord in a motorbike accident in Thailand last year, with no feeling, movement or function below his hips.
With the help of calipers to heavily brace his legs, he can now stand and shuffle around his Docklands apartment, and says he is slowly regaining feeling in his legs thanks to Indian gynaecologist Geeta Shroff.
Over the course of nine weeks, Dr Shroff injected twice-daily doses of embryonic stem cells into Mr Rowe's arm, as well as five larger courses of 50 million cells directly into his spine.
While many Australian and international scientists have been critical of the treatment, stem-cell experts declined to comment about the latest apparent success because there is yet to be any clinical research to prove or disprove the claims.
The initial $45,000 treatment will be followed up with at least two further treatments in India over the next nine months.
"I've got the feeling back. It's not complete at the moment but it is starting to get there," Mr Rowe said.
"One morning I woke up over there and my foot was against the cold steel hospital bed and I was able to feel that, and that was when I realised it was working."
Mr Rowe was one of five Australians being treated by Dr Shroff at her Nu-tech Mediworld in the last two months.
They also include quadriplegic Perry Cross, who can breathe without a ventilator and sit unaided for the first time in 14 years.
A St Kilda multiple sclerosis sufferer, a Lakes Entrance woman with motor neurone disease and a Brisbane paraplegic have also travelled to India, hoping for a cure from Dr Shroff.
In the days since his return, Mr Rowe has received emails and calls from a dozen miracle seekers.
He has met a man and a woman from Melbourne who are travelling to the New Delhi clinic next month to see if embryonic stem cells can cure their paraplegia.
Since developing her technique, Dr Shroff has treated more than 500 patients with stem cells derived from a single embryo derived from an IVF patient.
Mr Rowe's mother Vivienne is ecstatic about his improvement.
"We all feel a lot better because there is just so much hope," Ms Rowe said.
"To see him stand for the first time and take steps, was just the most amazing thing -- like he'd been born again.
"I always knew he would walk. I knew there was technology out there."