Italy approves controversial stem cell therapy

Italian lawmakers on Wednesday gave their final approval to a law that allows limited use of a controversial type of stem cell therapy which has been condemned by many scientists but has given hope to families of terminally-ill children.

The law gives the go-ahead for therapy being carried out by the Stamina Foundation on dozens of patients to continue, and allows for an 18-month period of clinical trials for the procedure, which had previously been blocked by Italian authorities.

The bill was amended from an earlier version and states the therapy must be carried out under regulatory oversight and using cells made according to the Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP) which the Stamina Foundation has not adhered to.

The Stamina Foundation says its treatment is based on mesenchymal stem cells and could treat diseases like spinal cord injury and motor neurone disease.

But leading scientists have warned that there is no evidence to suggest the treatment could work and no way to know that it will not cause harm.

Patients lobbied for the therapy to be given the go-ahead, receiving support from various celebrities including actress Gina Lollobrigida.

At one demonstration, protesters wore T-shirts with the slogan: "Yes to Stamina, Yes to Life".

The association Stem Cell Research Italy has branded the new law as "unacceptable" saying the therapy was not backed up by clinical data published in peer-reviewed academic journals.

US journal Nature said it was a "rogue" therapy.

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Italy approves controversial stem cell therapy

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