International stem cell awareness day focuses on its importance to humanity

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“While still in its infancy, this groundbreaking and exciting science holds significant future health promises for mankind,” says Professor Michael Pepper, Extraordinary Professor in the Department of Immunology at the University of Pretoria.

 

Pepper’s group has initiated a feasibility study for a national public cord blood stem cell bank and is about to embark on a research project on a combined cell and gene therapy approach for the treatment of HIV/AIDS.

 

Pepper is also driving the stem cell awareness cause in South Africa along with several top local scientists in this field. “One of our major objectives is to challenge dated legislation that currently hinders implementation of and investment into stem cell therapies and activities in the biotech sector.”

 

“Credibility is a vital component in establishing public trust in this science. The importance from the public perspective is to be aware of unethical practices which are specifically targeted at emotionally vulnerable individuals. We need to implement a rigorous information campaign to address the current controversies and confusion” Pepper concluded.

 

As of today, bone marrow transplantation is the only universally accepted form of stem cell therapy. It is done mainly for treatment of cancer, blood disorders and inherited diseases.  Stem cells also contribute to the success of certain procedures used to assist in the healing of bone and skin, and some of these have been practiced for many years.

 

Stem cells from umbilical cord blood have become an important source of cells for bone marrow transplantation. People for example needed to know that stem cells taken from umbilical cord blood for approved applications bear no moral, religious or ethical issue.  There is also no risk involved in harvesting and processing the cells as the umbilical cord and placenta are discarded after birth.

 

According to Pepper clinical trials to assess effects of stem cells in heart failure and attacks have been promising; but it cannot yet be routinely practiced in clinical medicine. The same applies to the treatment of diabetes, Parkinson’s disease and spinal cord injury.

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For more information on the Stem Cells, please contact

Prof. Professor Michael Pepper

Tel:  012 420 5317

Fax: 012 420 3953

Cell: 072 209 6324

E-mail: [email protected]

 

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