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Central tenant faulty in 'Stamina' treatment, report says

'Incapable of obtaining neurons from bone-marrow stem cells'

08 January, 16:20
Central tenant faulty in 'Stamina' treatment, report says (ANSA) - Rome, January 8 - A report on the controversial 'Stamina' stem-cell treatment has found a key part of the therapy lacking in both premise and practice. In a copy of the report obtained by ANSA, a panel of experts appointed by Italy's health ministry in December found the treatment to be incapable of obtaining neurons from patients' bone-marrow stem cells, the central step in the untested process.

The theory of Stamina therapy is based on 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.

On Tuesday, Nature science journal said the experts' report cited "serious imperfections and omissions in the Stamina protocol, including conceptual errors and an apparent ignorance of stem-cell biology".

"Some sections of the protocol were copied from Wikipedia," it added. Supporters of the therapy say it could be a cure for fatal degenerative nerve diseases such as spinal muscular atrophy, while detractors say it is devoid of scientific merit. 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 merit and that there was no point in doing the study, for which the Italian government had allocated three million euros. Following a public outcry including demonstrations by wheelchair-bound patients threatening to turn off their oxygen supply in protest, Italy's health ministry appointed a second expert panel in December. But it appears to have reached the same conclusions as the first panel, recommending the treatment not be administered in public hospitals.