April 14, 2024

California stem cell scientists team up with China

CIRM signs agreement

The California Institute for
Regenerative Medicine (CIRM) will be collaborating with the Chinese
Ministry of Science and Technology (MOST) on stem cell research. CIRM
already has agreements with six other countries: Germany, the United
Kingdom, Canada, the state of Victoria in Australia, Spain and Japan.

The press releases stressed that “all
research, especially in clinical trials, will uphold the strictest
ethical standards”. These words may not allay misgivings about
research in a country which had become a centre for stem cell
tourism, with patients flocking to hospitals for unproven treatments.

Ethical guidelines were issued for the
first time in May this year. Chinese institutions were banned
from commercialising stem cell treatments without first proving that they were working through proper
clinical trials. Qiu Renzong, vice president of the Chinese ministry
of health’s ethics committee, told New Scientist at the time that
more than 50 institutions in China were engaged in stem cell
research. Many of these were offering to cure patients of
conditions ranging "from diabetes to spinal injuries". They
usually charge thousands of dollars per course of treatment, he said.
"Anecdotal evidence is given of people making incredible
recoveries, but with nothing equivalent to controlled clinical trials
to back them up," Qiu said.

“Chinese authorities now face a huge
challenge enforcing the new regulations, given the size of the
country and the number of institutions conducting stem cell
research,” New Scientist noted. How the CIRM will deal with these
difficulties is yet to be seen. ~ New
Scientist, Sept 4
; iStockAnalyst,
Oct 19

Michael Cook