Why Germany is REALLY ahead in stem cell treatments

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A husband and wife pair in western Washington state are trying to raise money for him to go to Germany for a stem cell transplant for his failing heart. Erik and Jenn Gelhar have already raised $40,000 of the $100,000 they need to get him to Germany for the treatment at XCELL Centre in Dusseldorf Germany.

So why does an American have to travel to Germany to get such a treatment? Why are they farther ahead than the United States in adult stem cell treatments for heart disease? According to this article that quotes Dr. Charles Murray of University of Washington, it is because of Bush's funding restrictions on embryonic stem cell research and cloning:

Erik Gelhar is unable to get treatment in the United States because they are not as advanced as Germany in stem cell research. Germany has cutting edge technology and the people's view about stem cell therapy is different, Jenn Gelhar said.

Dr. Charles Murry, co-director at the University of Washington's Institute for Stem Cell and Regenerative Medicine, said the U.S. is still in the early stages of stem cell research. He said the ban that the Bush administration put on federal funding for the research slowed down the progression since it was a controversial and political issue.


Actually, Germany did one better than President Bush's funding ban and has OUTLAWED embryo destructive research and cloning all together. Germany does not fund such research at all because it is illegal to create or use embryos for research. The German Act for the Protection of Embryos states:

1. Anyone who disposes of, or hands over or acquires or uses for a purpose not serving its preservation, a human embryo produced outside the body, or removed from a woman before the completion of implantation in the uterus, will be punished with imprisonment of up to three years or a fine.

2. Likewise, anyone will be punished who causes a human embryo to develop further outside the body for any purpose other than bringing about of a pregnancy.

The reason Germans are so far ahead in adult stem cell treatments is because they don't waste time or money on stem cell research that does not now, and may never, treat patients i.e. embryonic stem cell research and cloning. (Imagine where the United States would be if millions of dollars that are spent on embryo destructive research were put into adult stem cell research instead.)

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7 Comments

Actually, the biggest barrier to ASCR in the US is that each proposed treatment regimen is treated by the FDA as a new drug, and has to go through the same process for approval as a new drug -- unlike drugs, which can be approved for one purpose but then freely used "off label" for other treatments.

Thanks Christina. This is true and I mention that later in the post continued at my blog. I just wanted to point out that Germany isn't ahead because of more liberal laws on embryonic stem cell research as the article suggests.

Your post is interesting as an example of someone who has already taken an ideological stand on an issue and then rearranges the "facts" to fit the ideology.

You say Germany "doesn't waste time or money on stem cell research that does not now, and may never, treat patients i.e. embryonic stem cell research and cloning." Not true. Legitimate stem cell researchers (e.g., Max Planck Institute, Robert Koch Institute, etc.) are working tirelessly to develop safe and effective stem cell-based treatments, whether using embryonic stem cells or so-called adult stem cells. The XCell center in Cologne is a bogus operation that does not offer scientific evidence of the success of its treatments. It instead relies on the comments of patients, most of whom are experiencing a placebo effect, but no real improvement in conditions.

Secondly, what do you think happens to the thousands of unused embryos frozen at IVF clinics? They are destroyed. Period. Without any research being done on them. Why aren't you doing something to stop that, if you're so concerned about embryos?

Lastly, the FDA approval system is in place to protect patients. That's what bothers the shady doctors in the U.S. who are dying to perform unproven stem cell treatments for megabucks. Do you really want to undergo a treatment that has not been rigorously tested for effectiveness and safety before going on the market? Probably not. But it's much easier to curse the FDA rather than admit the truth about the con artists like XCell Center.

I cannot comment on the "bogusness" of XCell in Germany. I can comment on how in this article a US stem cell scientists says that the US is behind and it is because of Bush's funding restrictions. In this instance, this is clearly not the case because Germany has banned research on embryos all together.

Second, I am not "cursing" the FDA. If you read my original post on the FDA rules, I do not say that FDA rules are good or bad, just there. These rules are a major reason Americans have to overseas for autologous stem cell transplants. Funny how this article never mentions these rules. Too busy blaming Bush I suppose.

And third, I never forget about the nearly half a million frozen IVF embryos. They should not be there. Human organisms should never be manufactured in a dish and then left in the deep freeze, tossed out or donated to research. If you read my blog you would now that I think IVF is part of the problem.

The problem is Dr.Charles Murray doesn't have a clue of what he is talking about. Bush funding restriction was on embryonic stem cells not adult stem cell. Adult stem cell are the cell being used to treat heart disease, not embryonic stem cells. There are many places in the world having great success treating heart disease with adult stem cells The fight between embryonic stem cells, and adult stem cells is over, winner aduld cells.

I work with a NGO and we are doing awareness campaign for 'equal rights for everyone'. I found your site interesting. If you don't mind, I am going to share this link with my teammates and will gather some data according to the concerns written by you.


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