Medical tourism heading to Queenstown

By Christina McDonald

Photo / File / Mark Mitchell
Photo / File / Mark Mitchell

Medical tourism is coming to Queenstown, with a stem cell centre planned to be operating by the start of next year.

It would start treating sportsmen and osteoarthritis suffers, with a view to later treating multiple sclerosis and diabetes.

Prof Richard Boyd, of Monash University, Melbourne, told delegates at the New Zealand College of Appearance Medicine conference - being held in the Otago resort - about his plans for the centre.

It would be an extension of Queenstown Regenerative Medicine and a collaboration between the resort's regenerative medicine movers and shakers; Marcelle Noble and Dr Peter Britton, Dr John Flynn of the Gold Coast in Australia and Prof Boyd.

Professor Boyd is the director of Immunology and Stem Cell Laboratories at Monash University.

Ms Noble is the owner and director of Queenstown Regenerative Medicine (QRM) and said discussions are under way for a purpose-built centre, funded by private investors.

A location has not been confirmed but is likely to be near the Remarkables Park Shopping Centre and at a "high end" standard.

A cryopreservation facility to store stem cells, umbilical cord blood and amnion is an expected future development, with Prof Boyd yesterday emphasising the value of the amnion - a sack filled with stem cells involved in embryo development during pregnancy.

"Bank it, donate it but don't discard it," he said.

Prof Boyd said Queenstown's mixture of types and quantity of sports injuries and proactive people involved in regenerative medicine were major reasons why the resort was chosen.

A procedure which "stops the pain" (platelet rich plasma) from causes such as osteoarthritis is already available in the resort at QRM. Stem cell therapy was a step up because it also worked towards "fixing" the issue.

Ms Noble said the market for such a centre "is huge".

New Zealand and Australia's strong medical reputation in the United States helped.

Stem cells would come from a person's own fat, and the treatment price is estimated at between $7000 and $9000 for the initial treatments of sports injuries and osteoarthritis.

As people get older stem cells are less viable, and Ms Noble said there is also market demand for a cryopreservation centre to store stem cells as an insurance for a person's future health.

"Bring them to Queenstown for a holiday for a week and couple it with banking their stem cells," she said.

Queenstown would be the only centre in New Zealand to offer both the plasma and stem cell therapy.

- Otago Daily Times

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