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Stamina treatment a bust, Nature journal reports

Second Italian expert panel reaches same conclusions as first

07 January, 19:22
Stamina treatment a bust, Nature journal reports (ANSA) - Rome, January 7 - A panel of experts appointed by Italy's health ministry in December to assess the controversial 'Stamina' stem-cell treatment found it seriously lacking in both premise and practice, Nature science journal reported Tuesday.

The experts' report cited "serious imperfections and omissions in the Stamina protocol, including conceptual errors and an apparent ignorance of stem-cell biology," Nature wrote.

"Some sections of the protocol were copied from Wikipedia".

A controversial, untested form of stem-cell treatment, 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 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.

The panel also opposed the government-imposed secrecy surrounding its findings, Nature reported.

"Panel members expressed concern over the unusually strict confidentiality agreement they were asked to sign," the journal wrote.