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Stem Cell Investigations Being Finalized - 8-, 2004 – 24: 1
Researchers believe that stem cells can be used to treat a variety of debilitating diseases, but the treatments themselves have not been endorsed by most countries as an acceptable medical practice.

FREEPORT, Grand Bahama A government report on its investigative findings into experimental stem cell work carried out in Freeport is being finalized, according to Minister of Health Senator Dr. Marcus Bethel.

Dr. Bethel, who recently conceded that the Bahamas is not ready to regulate stem cell work, ordered the suspension of the work at the IAT Immunology Research Centre in Freeport, saying the Centre failed to follow Ministry guidelines with regard to attaining research approvals.

He told the Bahama Journal, We expect to have a completed report sometime in the near future. I dont have a timeline on that because there are a number of issues to be dealt with.

Meanwhile, as the government ponders its legislative position on stem cell work, the progress of the scientific endeavor is taking a quantum leap in Great Britain, which had reportedly issued its first license legalizing human cloning.

According to the Associated Press, researchers in the UK are now permitted to clone human embryos in order to harvest stem cells for testing.

Similar legislative pressure is also reportedly being felt by the German government, as the countrys scientists threaten to leave to conduct work in countries that allow more scientific freedom in the area of stem cell research.

Last month, Dr. John Clement, medical director at IAT, told the Bahama Journal that he has treated several American children for Cerebral Palsy with stem cells derived from umbilical cord blood of mothers at the Rand Memorial Hospital.

Cord blood stem cells have been used for some time in clinical trials.

Dr. Bethel said he has received confirmation from Dr. Clement that the Centre has complied with the Ministrys order to cease all stem cell work and treatments there.

Researchers believe that stem cells can be used to treat a variety of debilitating diseases, but the treatments themselves have not been endorsed by most countries as an acceptable medical practice.

Medical Journals are publishing positive results from clinical trials where stem cells have been used to treat diseases and correct damage caused by injuries or organ failures.

In fact, a recent study published in the American Journal of Physiology said that embryonic stems have been engineered to become heart tissue that was then used to correct cardiac muscle damage caused by heart attacks.

But scientists admit that stem cell work is new, and has not had the advantage of time in order for researchers to determine its potential negative effects.

Its a point raised by New Providence physician Dr. Ada Thompson, who appeared on the Love 97 program Jones & Company several weeks ago.

Dr. Thompson said, Stem cells have the ability to reproduce. The pathogenesis of cancer for example is cells that reproduce crazily. Where do you stop stem cells?

When you put them in, how do you control their multiplication to the point where they are not harmful? Does it have the risk of giving you cancer?

Its the lack of sufficient clinical data that has reportedly prevented regulatory bodies like the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to prohibit stem cell treatments in the United States.

The United States also prohibits federal funding for testing on stem cell sources that were cultured after April 2001.

U.S. presidential hopeful John Kerry has indicated that he will lift government restrictions on embryonic stem cell research is he is elected.

Dr. Thompson, like religious groups worldwide, threw her support behind stem cell testing, but only if the cells come from the umbilical cord or from human blood.

Religious groups like the Roman Catholic and Southern Baptists have stood against embryonic stem cell testing, since human embryos have to be destroyed in the research.

Dr. Bethel has also indicated that, in his opinion, embryonic stem cell testing crosses ethical and moral boundaries.

Sharon Williams, The Bahama Journal