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2004-08-30 15:45:16

Findings Of Stem Cell Investigations Due Tuesday

The cells are grown and genetically engineered to create human tissue like heart or brain tissue that can be used to replace damaged cells.

After several weeks of investigating the work that was carried out at a Freeport Clinic involving stem cell treatments, Ministry of Health officials are prepared to release their findings.

Minister of Health Dr. Marcus Bethel and other health officials are scheduled to release the details during a press conference at the Rand Memorial Hospital Tuesday morning.

The investigation was prompted by a series of Bahama Journal investigative reports that exposed the work of the IAT Immunology Research Centre on East Atlantic Drive.

Just over a week ago, Dr. Bethel told the Bahama Journal that there were “a number of issues to be dealt with.'

He suspended stem cell work at the clinic in July, saying that the centre failed to adhere to current Ministry guidelines with regard to conducting medical research.

Recently, the Health Minister also spoke of the need to enact legislation to govern this kind of work in the Bahamas.

“Insofar as the Bahamas is concerned, clearly this incident along with our global commitments act as a stimulus for us to bring about a consideration of legislation governing the whole process of research, and stem cell research in particular,' he said.

While acknowledging the merit stem cell research may have, Dr. Bethel pointed out after the story broke that persons wanting to conduct research must first submit an application to the Ministry of Health inclusive of a proposal of the specific research to be considered.

“This information once in hand would then be forwarded to the ethics committee within the Ministry of Health for its review and recommendations,' he said.

As pointed out in the Bahama Journal investigative series, stem cell research and treatments have sparked a worldwide ethics debate because they involve scientists taking stem cells from aborted fetuses or “test tube' babies and growing them in a laboratory to be later injected into patients suffering from a variety of diseases.

The cells are grown and genetically engineered to create human tissue like heart or brain tissue that can be used to replace damaged cells.

Embryos used in the test tube procedure are then discarded. This practice has fuelled opposition from religious and right-to-life groups in the United States that argue that stem cell research either encourages abortions or creates life that will ultimately be destroyed.

Dr. John Clement, IAT medical director, was quick to distance the Centre's work from the ongoing global controversy in the exclusive interview he gave to the Bahama Journal many weeks ago.

On Tuesday, Dr. Bethel is expected to indicate whether IAT would be allowed to continue any work in the Bahamas as it relates to stem cell research and treatments.

The Bahama Journal reports had revealed that several Americans traveled to Freeport to receive the treatment.

The Bahama Journal

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