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Stem Cells Fraud Scheme in U.S. Leads to Arrests

Four people were recently indicted on federal charges in the United States for selling unapproved stem cell treatments and other biological products to seriously ill patients. The patients were falsely told that the treatments were approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, according to the indictment.

Francisco Morales, Larry Stowe, Jesus Alberto Ramon and Dr. Vincent Dammai are charged with collecting in excess of $1.5 million from people suffering from Lou Gehrig's disease, Parkinson's, muscular dystrophy and cancer over a period from 2007 to 2010. Ramon, a licensed midwife and owner of the Maternity Care Clinic in Del Rio, Mexico, allegedly sold the umbilical cords of women giving birth at his clinic to Global Laboratories LLC, in Scottsdale, Ariz., which forwarded them to Dammai, an assistant professor at the University of South Carolina's medical school. Dammai harvested the stem cells for Global using university facilities. He did this without FDA or university knowledge or approval, the indictment says.

NASA and stem cells

NASA’s space shuttle program came to an end last week after 135 flights over 30 years. Some might argue that the shuttle programme (total cost estimated at $200 billion) did not deliver the expected outcomes for space exploration but we cannot deny that some very useful technologies and scientific knowledge have arisen from this extended experiment in re-usable orbiting hardware. A description of this list is beyond the scope of the portal but one fascinating experiment made its way into space aboard the last flight of the shuttle Atlantis at the end of July. The shuttle delivered adipose stem cells from six adults to the International Space Station where they will take part in an ongoing NASA research programme aimed at greater understanding the impact of the harsh radiation environment of space on cellular ageing.

Snakes and ladders –some stem cell players win, other lose

Lyle Armstrong, Stem Cells Portal Editor

Human Stem cell research has never had an easy time in terms of public acceptance and government regulation so workers in this field should be accustomed to controversial decisions affecting the future of this endeavour. Neither is it rare for two areas of the world to hold diametrically opposed views about stem cell research but in recent weeks we have seen decisions taking this polarity to a higher level. On the one hand, the USA has this week given a potentially enormous boost to Human Embryonic Stem Cell development by removing the ban on public funding for embryonic stem cell research. Set against this is the recent statement made by the court of justice of the European Union, that procedures involving established human embryonic stem cell lines are not patentable.

HIV Therapeutics– Gene Editing Shows Promise in Clinic

From Nature News

The Stem Cell Portal has recently reported on new studies which demonstrate a potential cure for HIV/AIDs based around the CCR5 receptor (Stem Cell Cures for HIV?). It is known that HIV can infect CD4+ T cells through the CCR5 cell surface receptor and the subsequent destruction of the immune system is driven by this loss of normal CD4+ T cells. It has been discovered that a homozygous deletion in the CCR5 allele entails a resistance to HIV infection, while heterozygous patients show slower disease progression. Now Nature News reports on results from a phase I safety trial presented at the Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections by Sangamo BioSciences of a zinc finger nuclease (ZFN) which targets and artificially disrupts the CCR5 gene.

Ernest McCulloch Founding Father of Stem Cell Research Dies

Canadian stem cell pioneer Ernest Armstrong McCulloch has died at the age of 84. Born in Toronto on the 26th of April 1926 McCulloch, affectionately known as ‘Bun’, and his partner James Till were the first to demonstrate the existence of stem cells in the hematopoietic system in the 1960s. Their discovery revolutionized cell biology and cancer therapy and paved the way for the development of bone marrow transplant therapy for leukaemia patients. McCulloch's more recent research focused on the cellular and molecular mechanisms affecting malignant blast stem cells in patients with Acute Myeloblastic Leukaemia. Previously serving as President of the Academy of Science of the Royal Society of Canada and Professor Emeritus at the University of Toronto, McCulloch was also a Fellow of the Royal Society of London and was inducted into the Canadian Medical Hall of Fame in 2004. His death has occurred only days before the 50th anniversary celebration of the discovery. McCulloch and Till won the Albert Lasker Award for Basic Medical Research in 2005 and were nominated for a greatly anticipated Nobel Prize in 2009. The seminal findings of the duo are widely hailed to be the incipient event that has led to the survival of leukaemia patients worldwide.

Stem-cell pioneer says clear law is needed

By Marie McCullough
Inquirer Staff Writer

Is it legal for the federal government to fund human embryonic stem cell research?

Next month, a federal appeals court will hear arguments, yea and nay. Any decision is sure to be appealed because current laws are ambiguous.
And that's the problem, said John Gearhart, head of the University of Pennsylvania's Institute for Regenerative Medicine - and one of the first two scientists to isolate human embryonic stem cells in 1998.

New egg screening technique may boost the success rate of IVF

New egg screening technique may boost the success rate of IVF

From BBC

A new egg screening technique pioneered by Care Fertility and reported at the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology (ESHRE) conference in Rome, can predict genetic problems in 90% of cases. Use of this technique could lead to increases in pregnancy rates from IVF.   Read the entire story here.


Stem cell society to 'smoke out the charlatans'

From New Scientist


Also from the the International Society for Stem Cell Research annual meeting in San Francisco, California is a warning to “clinics offering unproven stem-cell treatments”. (Read more here).   This follows hot on the heels from a report of the death of a woman treated for a kidney condition, apparently as a result of the stem-cell injections she received.   Read more in New Scientist for coverage on both stories.   

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