Mum of autistic boy 'in shock' over stem-cell centre closure
Published 09/05/2011 | 05:00
A MOTHER who raised more than €30,000 for experimental treatment for her autistic son is "in shock" after the controversial centre where he received his treatment was closed down.
Deirdre O'Dwyer's eight-year-old son Evan suffers from a rare neurological disorder which means the left side of his brain has failed to develop properly.
Evan, from the Commons Road, Cork, also developed severe epilepsy and autism as a result of the disorder.
His mother took him to Germany last week to undergo stem-cell treatment at the XCell Centre in Dusseldorf.
However, the centre -- which offers unlicensed treatments -- has closed after being ordered to cease operating by German authorities.
"I am very frightened now," said Mrs O'Dwyer, who felt the centre gave her son a "chance" by offering treatment he could not get elsewhere.
"I need to know exactly what happened here. We just wanted our son to have the best possible chance," she said.
The German centre claims its technique for stem-cell transplantation has had success in treating 17 different diseases, including cerebral palsy, multiple sclerosis, autism and spinal-cord injuries.
It charged up to €20,000 for treatment, which involved taking bone marrow from patients, harvesting stem cells from it and then injecting these cells into other parts of the body.
The treatment is banned in most European countries, unless it is part of a clinical trial, because there is a lack of scientific proof that it works.
But Mrs O'Dwyer said that, after Evan's first round of treatment at the centre last June, his condition improved dramatically, and that she had been advised to bring him back for a second round of injections.
However, when she arrived at the centre last week, she found it shut down. Fortunately, Mrs O'Dwyer had not yet paid the €10,000 for the follow-up treatment, on top of the almost €20,000 she had already paid.
Stephen Sullivan of the Irish Stem Cell Foundation said he was concerned some institutions were offering scientifically unproven stem-cell-based therapies.
"The spectrum of diseases for which there are clinically proven treatments based on stem cells is still extremely small," he said.
The XCell Centre was shut following a change to European legislation governing stem cells.
The centre did not respond to queries from the Irish Independent.