Research demonstrates that embryonic stem cells are not an effective resource for treatment and create false hope for a cure, according to a professor from the University of Milan, in Italy.
“This situation helps to nourish the uncritical mentality that demonizes any attempt at regulation as anti-scientific and against progress. Moreover, ‘stem’ has become a sort of magic word that gives added value to everything from cosmetics to the most absurd therapeutic ideas,” said professor Augusto Pessina of the University of Milan.
The professor's remarks were published in a June 14 article in the Vatican daily, L’Osservatore Romano.
In May of this year, the German government ordered the closure of the XClinic, which provided treatment for cerebral palsy, Parkinson’s and spinal cord conditions, after an 18-month-old baby died in October of 2010 from an injection of embryonic stem cells into the brain.
A few months earlier, a 10-year-old child was left severely disabled after undergoing a similar procedure.
Pessina pointed to these cases in his article titled, “Hope is not nourished by lies.”
“There is a lot of false information and lies in stem cell biomedicine, whether about biological knowledge or clinical applications,” he said.
He noted that one can find hundreds of sites on the internet that make “unrealistic promises” to cure “almost any pathology” with “at best therapies that have not been approved or that in other cases are useless or even dangerous to one’s health.”
The Committee for Advanced Therapies in Europe has already warned that this phenomenon “contributes to the discrediting of proper scientific research carried out in accord with ethical norms,” such as research with umbilical cord stem cells, which have been shown to be effective in various therapies.
Pessina said “correct and honest information” is urgently needed to prevent more unethical cases.
He went on to denounce the media for uncritically applauding procedures that have not been verified, thus causing biomedical information to be poorly received and “generating in patients and family members unfounded hopes and bitter disappointments.”
“Lies must not be used to raise the hopes of the sick,” he warned.
On the other hand, he pointed to the case of France, where several days ago research with embryonic stem cells was prohibited despite protests that called the decision obscurantist and contrary to freedom of research.
“In biological research today—where the principle that whatever can be technically done is licit seems to rule—the French law represents a courageous move that seeks to defend the dignity of the human person,” Pessina stated.