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Home English Researchers call on govt to halt Stamina stem-cell treatment

Researchers call on govt to halt Stamina stem-cell treatment


Rome, July 3 - Italian researchers on Wednesday
called on the health ministry to stop supporting a controversial
stem-cell treatment after international science journal Nature
slammed it as ineffective.
Health Minister Beatrice Lorenzin responded saying the
promoter of the Stamina therapy needed to show results of its
clinical trials and a detailed protocol.
"Nature's report against the Stamina method is very serious
and, most of all, raises great concern," said Lorenzin, calling
on Davide Vannoni, the president of the Stamina Foundation which
developed the therapy, to hand over a protocol without further
Paolo Bianco, a top international expert at Rome's La
Sapienza University on mesenchymal stem cells, which are used in
the therapy, had earlier called on the government to stop the
treatment which "should be legally sanctioned by the government
and immediately banned from all public hospitals of the national
health service".
The controversial Stamina therapy questioned by Nature uses
the mesenchymal stem cells from bone marrow that differentiate
into bone, fat and connective tissue to treat terminally ill
Developed by the Brescia-based Stamina Foundation, a
psychologist at the University of Udine, the treatment was
repeatedly banned until the Italian health ministry in March
said the therapy could continue in 32 terminal patients, most of
them children, although the stem cells used for the treatment
are not manufactured under the country's legal safety standards.
Responding to criticism on Wednesday, Vannoni wrote on his
Facebook page that Stamina needed "greater guarantees of
objectivity" before it could present trial results and a
protocol, as requested by parliament.
Though the compassionate use of the therapy was only
sanctioned in March for patients who were already being treated
with the Stamina method, an increasing number of patients are
bringing the matter to court to get the treatment.
Judges across Italy have in the past few months both ruled
in favour and against a patient's right to have the treatment.
In Italy, the compassionate use of yet-to-be-approved
therapies is allowed in certain instances for terminal patients
in which cases health authorities must provide them for free.
But on Wednesday another expert, Michele De Luca, director
of the 'Stefano Ferrari' centre for regenerative medicine at the
University of Modena and Reggio Emilia said that, as highlighted
by Nature, "this experimentation, which had initially appeared
as unavoidable, has no sense now and should be avoided".
Vannoni says he developed the therapy after receiving a
stem-cell treatment for a virus-induced facial paralysis in
Russia in 2004.
He told Nature that the publicity around his method has
attracted 9,000 new patients.
The psychologist said after his treatment he invited a
Russian and a Ukrainian scientist to Turin to work on the
treatment and claims Stamina has since treated about 80 people,
including patients with Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease.
He has not published the details of his therapy.
His lab is now based in Brescia, where an inspection by the
Italian Medicines Agency and the health ministry's Institute of
Superior Health reported inadequate conditions.

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