The News – 26 August 2014

Overview

  • The death of an Australian woman undergoing stem cell therapy in Russia has prompted a leading stem cell research group to warn of rogue operators charging thousands of dollars for ineffectual stem cell treatments.
  • A Nobel Prize-winning scientist has issued a warning to Australian parents who are reluctant to vaccinate their children.
  • The Garvan Institute of Medical Research participated in Space Oddity, a special public science event held as part of National Science Week, at the Powerhouse Museum in Sydney on Saturday.


Stories Discussed
News on Health Professional Radio. Today is the 26th August 2014. Read by Rebecca Foster.

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2014-08-25/rogue-operators-charge-thousands-ineffective-stem-cell-treatment/5695360

The death of an Australian woman undergoing stem cell therapy in Russia has prompted a leading stem cell research group to warn of rogue operators charging thousands of dollars for ineffectual stem cell treatments.

Brisbane mother Kellie van Meurs died of a heart attack last month while receiving stem cell treatment in Moscow for her rare neurological condition known as stiff person syndrome.

Stem Cells Australia said there was a growing number of patients going overseas for stem cell treatments which are limited in Australia.

A loophole in the therapeutic goods legislation means that doctors are legally allowed to treat patients, both here and overseas, with their own stem cells – even if the treatment is unsafe or has not been proven effective through clinical trials.

Stem Cells Australia said it believed dozens of doctors in Australia offered the questionable treatments.

“They’re selling treatment without any proof of benefit, and without any proof of safety,” [SAID] Associate Professor Megan Munsie, a stem cell biologist at the University of Melbourne …

Irving Weissman is a professor at Stanford University in California, who discovered human blood stem cells in 1992 and is a pioneer in the field.

He warned of the dangers of the quackery that he believed invaded stem cell therapy more than almost any other area of medicine.

“I googled ‘stem cell therapy’ and the first 200 [results] I saw were fraudulent therapies,” he said.

“No science behind them. No published work.”

But he said he understands why desperate patients might be taken in.

Professor Munsie has now dedicated her work to exposing the scams which see patients billed up to $70,000 for ineffective therapy.

Professor Munsie also issued a warning about the world of internet health, where things were not always as they seem.

“We have to be very aware of Dr Google,” she said.

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2014-08-25/immunisation-expert-warning-against-vaccination-decline/5694572

A Nobel Prize-winning scientist has issued a warning to Australian parents who are reluctant to vaccinate their children.

Professor Rolf Zinkernage said that old diseases could re-emerge without vaccination programs, possibly with worse effects than when they were originally widespread.

He said immunisations may work on a cycle of low-level reinfection rather than immune memory.

Professor Zinkernagel won the Nobel Prize for medicine with Australian scientist Peter Doherty in 1996 for research identifying how the immune system recognises virus-infected cells.

He said current vaccination programs should be boosted, because people who were vaccinated 20 or 30 years ago show a drastic decline in their protective level.

Professor Zinkernagel said the lack of continued exposure to naturally circulating infections meant a person’s protective level “decreases and sometimes disappears”.

He said about one-in-1,000 to one-in-3,000 children with a wild-type measles infection, like the recent small outbreak in Melbourne, would bear “very serious health consequences”.

http://www.garvan.org.au/news-events/news/garvan-institute-participates-in-national-science-week-space-oddity-event

The Garvan Institute of Medical Research participated in Space Oddity, a special public science event held as part of National Science Week, at the Powerhouse Museum in Sydney on Saturday. Between talks and performances from guest speakers, including astronaut Chris Hadfield, four Garvan scientists discussed some of the most interesting aspects of their research with attendees.

Physiologist Dr Paul Baldock demonstrated bendy and brittle bones; cell biologist Dr Ebru Boslem took people on a jellybean journey to understand diabetes; Dr Andrew Burgess used his mitosis game to mimic cell division; and Dr Darren Saunders shared mitochondrial marshmallows to help explain how cancers can use our cellular machinery to grow.

The Space Oddity event was part of National Science Week, Australia’s national celebration of science and technology. Now into its sixteenth year, National Science Week provides an opportunity to acknowledge the contributions of Australian scientists’ to the world of knowledge. It also aims to encourage an interest in science pursuits among the general public, and to encourage younger people to be fascinated by the world we live in.

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