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China halts unapproved stem cell treatments as industry grows in country with lighter rules

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BEIJING — The Health Ministry ordered unapproved stem cell treatments stopped Tuesday as China tries to bring under control its growing but loosely regulated industry.

The ministry stopped accepting applications for stem cell procedures until July and is implementing a yearlong campaign to halt unauthorized stem cell therapy trials.

Regulations on stem cell treatments are relatively relaxed in China compared to other nations and the country is often seen as a last hope for people suffering from serious medical problems ranging from cancer to spinal cord injuries.

Stem cell therapies introduce new cells into damaged tissue in order to treat disease or injury. Patients, including some from overseas, can pay tens of thousands of dollars in a bid to restore such things as back functions or sight.

Ministry spokesman Deng Haihua told a news briefing that for stem cell tests already approved by the State Food and Drug Administration, “the clinical trials should not be altered and be charged for.”

Any unapproved stem cell research of clinical applications must be stopped immediately, Deng said, according to a transcript of the news briefing.

The official Xinhua News Agency said Tuesday that China has no specific policy for clinical trials or applications of stem cell technology. It said such trials are subject to general regulations governing all medical practices, such as the importance of volunteers’ rights and health.

By Associated Press

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