Stem cell research triggers new controversy

Supporters say Stamina trials should be allowed to continue

Stem cell research triggers new controversy

Rome, September 12 - Proponents of controversial stem-cell research that was questioned one day earlier by Italy's health minister argued Thursday for continued research. The president and vice-president of the social affairs committee of the Lower House, Pierpaolo Vargiu and Eugenia Roccella, said the Stamina research was too important to abandon. And Davide Vannoni, the president of the Stamina Foundation, defended the work as scientific and valid. They were reacting to a reportedly negative opinion on the controversial Stamina stem-cell treatment submitted by a group of experts commissioned by the health ministry. Italian researchers in July called on the health ministry to stop supporting the treatment after international science Journal Nature slammed it as ineffective. Sources told ANSA that the opinion submitted to the health ministry reportedly echoed those findings. Health Minister Beatrice Lorenzin had said that Vannoni, the promoter of the Stamina therapy, needed to show results of its clinical trials and a detailed protocol. "The Nature (magazine) report against the Stamina method is very serious and, most of all, raises great concern," said Lorenzin, calling on Vannoni to provide answers. But Vargiu and Roccella said that families looking for answers to illness were anxious to see results from the research. "We have to give answers to patients and families," said a statement. 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 patients. Developed by the Brescia-based Stamina Foundation, 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.

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