China’s stem-cell rules go unheeded

(Stem Cells News image)

(…) In January, recognizing the worsening situation, the health ministry announced a package of rules for the industry. Organizations using stem cells must register their research and clinical activities, the source of the stem cells and ethical procedures. The ministry asked local health authorities to halt any unapproved clinical use of stem cells in their regions. And it called for a nationwide moratorium on new clinical trials for stem-cell therapies, adding that patients in existing clinical trials should not be charged.

So far, however, the ministry’s clampdown has proved ineffective. According to a Ministry of Health spokesman, not one clinic has registered in the required way, and Nature has found that many stem-cell clinics continue to offer treatments. Shanghai WA Optimum Health Care, for example, which has plush headquarters in a gated estate in one of the wealthiest areas of central Shanghai, claims success in using stem cells derived from umbilical cord or adipose tissue to treat a range of disorders, from autism to multiple sclerosis. Tony Lu, a member of the company’s science and technology board, says that four to eight injections of such cells can treat Alzheimer’s disease, at a cost of 30,000–50,000 renminbi (US$4,750–7,900) per injection. According to the company’s senior patient-liaison officer, Karina Grishina, autism can be treated with an adipose-tissue-derived cell injection for 200,000 renminbi, followed a few days later by a 50,000-renminbi injection of umbilical cord cells.

In Changchun, Tong Yuan Stem Cell claims to have treated more than 10,000 patients with a variety of disorders, including Parkinson’s disease. A representative says that it also offers a one-year, four-injection autism treatment protocol using stem cells from aborted fetuses. Meanwhile, Beijing Puhua International Hospital’s Stem Cell Treatment Center offers a four-to-five-injection protocol for autism, costing 205,000 renminbi. (…)

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