>I don’t normally get my bioethics news from “ThisisLondon.co.uk, the entertainment guide“
In this case, however, the first notice I had about the letter from 14 leaders in charity funding for stem cell research had written to the London Times was in that prestigious publication. While cautioning against the risks of unproven stem cell experiments, the authors at “the entertainment guide” found it necessary to insert a generic, gratuitous propaganda speil selling the hype for embryonic stem cells.
It doesn’t seem to matter that the actual news story concerns a serious risk to patients who travel to European clinics for treatment with umbilical cord blood.
The Times OnLine has a more complete and acurate discussion about the letter.
While stem cells offer great promise for treating many disorders, extravagant claims made for therapies costing more than £10,000 a time do not stand up to scientific scrutiny, they say.
In a letter to The Times, 14 medical charities and research funders warn patients that there is no evidence to support the benefits attributed to unorthodox stem-cell treatments, which could carry a risk of infection, immune system rejection and even cancer.
Premature use of stem cells to treat disease, before safety and effectiveness have been evaluated in clinical trials, also threatens to set back mainstream research that promises genuinely better therapies, they say.The signatories include Professor Colin Blakemore, chief executive of the Medical Research Council, Lord Patel, of the UK Stem Cell Bank, and the heads of the MS Society, the Parkinson’s Disease Society, the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation and the Alzheimer’s Society.
Stem cells have the capacity to form a wide variety of tissue types, and could be used to replace cells and organs that are damaged or destroyed in conditions such as MS, diabetes and Parkinson’s disease. The most powerful are found in embryos, but other less malleable types can also be extracted from the adult body and from umbilical cord blood.
Only a handful of treatments based on adult and cord blood stem cells have been licensed in the UK, principally for treating leukaemia and eye and skin disorders. But some foreign clinics offer stem-cell injections for other conditions, chiefly MS, and for cosmetic surgery.
Several dozen British MS patients have travelled to a centre in the Netherlands to receive cord blood stem cells from a Swiss company called Advanced Cell Therapeutics (ACT) at a cost of up to £13,500. The Dutch clinic is one of two under investigation by the authorities. The ACT procedure was banned in the Irish Republic this year, prompting the company to consider offering it in international waters on the Swansea to Cork ferry.
While more subtly and skillfully done,the Times OnLine has its own obligatory, gratuitous embryonic stem cell propaganda.
Please notice the name of the Swiss company doing business in the Netherlands: “ACT, Advanced Cell Therapeutics.” As far as I can tell, this is not the same as “ACT, Advanced Cell Technology,” the Nevada company doing business in California and Massachussetts (which is led by Drs. Robert Lanza and Michael West along with Mr. William Caldwell IV , as well as bioethicist for hire, Dr. Ronald Green) which has been in the news this week.
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