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Health ministry appoints new panel on stem-cell therapy

Regional court orders reassessment of stamina treatment

04 December, 14:08
Health ministry appoints new panel on stem-cell therapy (ANSA) - Rome, December 4 - Italy's health ministry said Wednesday that it will appoint a new panel of experts to assess its protocols governing the use of controversial stem cell treatments for the desperately ill. The announcement came shortly after the Lazio Regional Administrative Court suspended a previous panel, upholding an appeal from David Vannoni, president of Italy's Stamina Foundation which supports the stem-cell treatment that critics say has been untested and could be dangerous.

In their order the judges, who have set June 11 for a review of the matter, urged the health ministry to conduct a serious investigation of the so-called Stamina treatment. The first expert panel that the Italian government appointed had been asked to come up with a trial design for the therapy.

However, it concluded in September that the treatment has no scientific foundation and that there was no point in doing the study, for which the Italian government had allocated three million euros.

The therapy has been a hot topic in the media and in the courts.

Late last month, a judge rejected an appeal for access to the therapy for an infant suffering from spinal muscular atrophy.

The parents of 18-month-old Noemi Sciarretta, who had been admitted to hospital in critical condition, had already been turned down by two other judges in their quest to have their daughter admitted to a clinical trial of the Stamina treatment. Pope Francis recently met with the family of Noemi and prayed for the little girl.

Stamina therapy involves extracting bone marrow stem cells from the patient, turning them into neurons by exposing them to retinoic acid for two hours, and injecting them back into the patient.

Supporters of the therapy say it could be a cure for fatal degenerative nerve diseases while detractors say it is devoid of scientific merit.