Currently stem cell research is only a hope and a strong one at that, and Obama was right to resume a promising line of research that could also be useful for multiple sclerosis. This was a statement made by 1986 Nobel Prize for medicine winner Rita Levi Montalcini who spoke yesterday morning at a conference sponsored by Italian MS Society (AISM), of which she was Honorary President for the First World Multiple Sclerosis Day.
“Embryonic stem cell research is only one of the paths we are taking, and although we are far away, we must never surrender. I am certain that one day we will be able to defeat this disease, which strikes mainly young individuals,” said Montalcini. To proceed, research “needs public investments. But at the same time, private investments are just as important”.
“Stem cell research is still at its beginnings, and it is only one possibility to find a treatment for muscular sclerosis,” said Gianvito Martino, of the Neuro-immunology unit at San Raffaele in Milan at the first World Multiple Sclerosis Day.
“We have placed too much importance and created too many expectations for stem cell research, which will not provide a definitive solution for this disease.” “This is an opportunity that cannot be missed out on”, added Martino. “We have observed that stem cells can prevent damage, but they do not repair damaged tissue. They cannot be used on people with the disease who have suffered significant injuries”.
Martino asked, “those with the disease and their families to not take trips to other countries in hopes that they will receive miracle stem cell treatments. The safety of these treatments has not yet been verified. We are certain that we will begin to see the damages that result from these treatments in these patients, including the presence of tumors.”
Among the various initiatives taking place for the event was the awarding of the Rita Levi Montalcini 2009 prize to Roberto Furlan for his research in the neuro-immunology and genetic therapy fields. Lori Schneider was also recognized at the event for being the first woman with multiple sclerosis to reach the top of Mount Everest where she planted the flag of the First World Multiple Sclerosis Day on Friday May 22.