Imagine having a paralyzing spinal cord injury. Imagine being unable to move your arms or legs, or even to breathe on your own. Then imagine that a physician has developed a treatment using injected embryonic stem cells which can actually improve your condition, allow you to, say, breathe again without mechanical aid. Or begin to regain some use of your limbs, and find yourself on the road to recovery.
Such treatment now appears to be on the horizon for sufferers of heretofore incurable conditions such as SCI, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s Disease.
Every now and then, I run into a new candidate for the title, “a hero of mine.” It’s too early to tell, but I may have found another.
A medical researcher in New Delhi, India, Dr. Geeta Shroff, is reportedly doing wondrous things with embryonic stem cells. She has been called a “maverick,” already an attractive description in an age of regulated conformity. The reason for the appellation: her fierce determination to do her work under her own terms and in her own way.
This means that Dr. Shroff did her research without any government financial assistance. As with the early Bill Gates, she at first worked out of her garage, where she set up her own small lab.
She first became famous in the early 90’s for developing a technique for determining the sex of a fetus in the womb, without taking a scan. After regulators curtailed that practice, she worked at treating couples for infertility problems.
She began her controversial work on stem cells in the late 90’s. At present, she has two hospitals in New Delhi, where she treats people who have terminal conditions or incurable diseases. Her patients have mostly been countrymen, but lately she has been approached by many international patients from Britain, Australia, America, and other countries which tightly control the use of embryonic stem cells.
Dr. Shroff gets criticism from the conventional medical establishment because she doesn’t publish on her research and technique. Instead of publishing, she has applied for a patent in order to stop competitors from copying and profiting from her work.
Dr. Shroff is to be commended for steadfastly being her own person in an era when such independence is frowned upon. She will have huge forces aligned against her: the medical profession’s disapproval and consequent ostracism, condemnation by religious “pro life” groups, castigation by self-styled “ethicists”, censure for insisting on making her own use of her discoveries rather than giving them away — the list goes on.
It’s too early for me to tell whether this remarkable woman and her breakthrough methods are for real, or a flash in the pan, but I have to say, I like her style.
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