Jury still out on potential to cure

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Spain still has no legislation to allow storage of umbilical cord samples for medical treatment by private companies.

14 January 2008

MADRID - In contrast to the legislative situation in Spain, a total of 21 European countries currently allow private companies to store umbilical cord samples, including the United Kingdom, Belgium, Germany and the Netherlands.

In the vast majority of these countries, public umbilical cord banks such as the scheme set up by the Spanish government, also exist to conserve stem cells for use in future treatments for the general population.

Only Spain and Italy have introduced a broad prohibition on the establishment of private donor banks.

In May 2004, a report by the Council of Europe made it clear that umbilical cord banks should be created to serve the public good. However, the text also accepted the private storage of cords for use by the donor or their family, in which case it stipulated that the information the family receives should be complete and not misleading as to the current state of the science.

Member states, said the Council of Europe - an advisory body comprising members from 47 European states - should not use public money to finance the storage of umbilical cord cells for self-treatment and must ensure that private companies meet a set of predefined standards on their storage.

Most significantly, the Council of Europe report warned against the potential for companies to mislead the public over what stem cells can be used for.

At present, umbilical cord cells have been used in bone marrow transplants and to treat blood diseases, but so far their ability to cure other illnesses has yet to be demonstrated.

[Copyright EL PAÍS / Álvaro de Cózar 2008]

Subject: Spanish news

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