If you're not aware, Italy has been going through a stem cell controversy which Nature has been covering awesomely here, here, here, and the latest leaks here.

Basically, the Stamina Foundation has been testing controversial stem cell treatment on terminally ill children in Bresica, Italy. There has been protest from scientists that the treatment is not yet validated for safety and efficacy in humans, and may potentially do harm. It should also be noted that the founder, Davide Vannoni, moved locations several times before he found one where he wouldn't be under harsh scrutiny.

The Italian health department shut down the trial, citing worries about safety and lack of proper protocols. The public went apeshit, claiming that scientists are trying to keep life-saving treatments away from their dying children. Since then, there seems to have been criticisms and back and forth as to the validity of the trials, and the neutrality of the scientific committee who evaluated Vannoni's work. A judge ruled that the original committee was unlawfully biased, and a new committee should be formed, giving Vannoni a chance to restart his clinical trials.

Now, the documents from the original committee have been leaked, revealing details that Stamina has been trying to keep secret. The protocol for making the cells did not properly screen for dangerous pathogens (such as viruses and prions). Also, it would not make a sufficiently pure population of stem cells for treatment. Instead, bone fragments, and blood precursors may also be injected. On a lighter note, amused to see the criticism that parts of the protocol were copied from Wikipedia (shady scientists are just like college freshmen).

Will be interesting to see how this ends up playing out in Italy. Hopefully the public realizes that it's really in their best interest that validated, safe treatments are provided.


Image from Robert H. Hunt/Wikimedia Commons