Stem cell therapy a fraud or a way out for people with incurable illness, a court in Turin Italy will decide. The prosecutor of Turin has brought forward  several charges Wednesday against Davide Vannoni, who invented the method Stamina, stem cell therapy is not accredited by any national health institute or approved by the scientific community. In the middle of a tug of authorizations and prohibitions that stretches for four years, thirty patients incurable young children- were subjected to this protocol in the public hospital in Brescia (near Milan).

The issue divides the country. On the one hand, patients, relatives and some associations claim the right to decide what medication to use. In addition, scientists need evidence to approve a treatment, but it is a compassionate care, trying to ride out the symptoms of very serious diseases with no known cure. The government still has not ruled definitively on whether this type of therapy is lawful or not. Raffaele Guarinello has been a prosecutor in Turin, where Stamina Foundation is headquartered. Guarinello has announced the conclusion of his investigation, and believes he has enough material to bring to the bench Vannoni and 19 employees on charges of conspiracy, fraud and dangerous drug delivery. The Tribunal must now set a date to begin the trial.

The Stamina method involves extracting bone marrow cells from the patient or a donor, preserve them for about 20 days and injecting them into the back. “It works. I experienced it myself,” says Vannoni, who teaches psychology at the University of Udine. “A virus completely destroyed my facial nerve” he recalls. “In 2004 I went to a lab in Ukraine. With four injections, I recovered 50% of the functionality.” At first, Vannoni operated in private clinics. In 2006, a ministerial decree gave way to the so-called compassionate care, which state that in cases for which there are no known therapies, a patient may choose to undergo treatments not yet tested fully.

In May 2010, the Italian Medicines Agency (Aifa) inspected the laboratory of Brescia which, handled and preserved cells. The verdict was unequivocal: “The conditions of maintenance and cleaning do not guarantee the protection of material contamination. The medical records do not explain the conditions and patient results. “These considerations pushed Aifa to suspend the activity of Stamina.

“The Stamina is neither science nor medicine is alchemy,” says Elena Cattaneo, who spent 20 years experimenting with stem cells at the University of Milan and, in August, was named senator for life by President thanks to her meritorious research.  Health then appointed a Scientific Committee which considered dangerous drug protocol for both appearance and emotional burden that comes in people with incurable diseases. Yet another court found that the Government Committee was biased and rejected its conclusions.

In this confused and twisted situation, patients and their families turned to local judges who decided case by case, each according to his own sensibility, whether to authorize care. Now Vannoni is accused of criminal association for the purposes of fraud against the National Health Service, suministración dangerous drug, unlawful exercise of the medical profession and other misdemeanors. Among the other 19 defendants are industrial Gianfranco Merizzi, president of the pharmaceutical company Medestea, one of the main sponsors of the Stamina Foundation. Vice president of the foundation, Marino Andolina, a doctor practicing injections is also accused.

“What we want is a national decree that allows us to choose how we want to heal. Why anyone else should decide about my life and my death,” says Sandro Biviano, 23, with muscular dystrophy.

In the absence of a final state rule, “Stamina case” slow progress between courts and plazas, and is becoming an impossible dialogue between reason and feeling, a labyrinth where opposite views, hopes and certainties are lost.

Biviano red – has a hat with his name as a nickname out of battle, and t-shirt that says “I have no desire to die” – sums it up for everyone: “Science does not offer me anything. Neither half pill. The state gives me 450 euros pension a month. We are on a temporary contracted lives. I would like to recognize the sacred right to try everything and anything. “Together with his brother Marco, also relegated to a wheelchair for the same condition, I spent months camped in front of Congress. His shop, mounted at the Civic Center 117 A Montecitorio square and equipped with fridge and stove, has become the headquarters of the 23,000 supporters of Stamina. The Romans go and observe and often leave them food and words of encouragement.

Entrenched everyone on your side, with everything to lose in the fight, sick and scientists expect a final word from Montecitorio. Perhaps the solution will come by a judge in Turin.

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