Jun 26, 2013

    Filipinos killed by stem cells?

    THE Philippines Medical Association (PMA) said it was looking into the recent deaths of three politicians who supposedly travelled to Germany last year to receive "xenogeneic" stem-cell treatment. The stem cells were derived from animals.

    The politicians separately underwent stem-cell therapy derived from sheep in Germany about six months to a year ago, Dr Leo Olarte, the PMA's president and spokesman for the Philippine Society for Stem Cell Medicine (PSSCM), said.

    They died in March and April this year, he said, without identifying them.

    "We are now trying to determine what caused their deaths - whether their deaths were hastened because they received xenogeneic stem cells," Dr Olarte said.

    One of the politicians - the late representative Erico Aumentado of Bohol province - underwent stem-cell therapy in Germany last September and felt like "Superman" before he died of pneumonia last Christmas at the age of 72, his son told the Inquirer on Monday.

    Mr Aris Aumentado, the incoming representative from Bohol, said his father felt so much better on his return from Germany that he got rid of his cane and wheelchair.

    But Dr Olarte explained that xenogeneic stem-cell sources could trigger complications, specifically "graft-versus-host reactions".

    He added that the PMA has to complete the investigation first before jumping to conclusions, because it was also possible that the congressmen died from their illnesses, which made them seek stem-cell therapy abroad in the first place.

    The PMA official warned that receiving animal-based stem cells was dangerous, and patients should opt for autologous adult-stem-cell treatment, which is derived from a patient's own blood, bone marrow or fat.

    On Sunday, the PMA and the PSSCM reported that there were German doctors asking Filipino patients to check in at five-star hotels in Metro Manila, where they would perform xenogeneic stem-cell therapy for around 1 million pesos (S$29,180) per shot.