BM&L, Medical Marijuana and Stem Cells Therapy: new debates
Christian Medical and Dental Associations (CMDA) propose in their News and Views (see at www.cmawashington.org) two interesting issues: 1. Dutch legalize medical marijuana and 2. Adult Stem Cells Prevent Need for Heart Transplant. BM&L long debated both the subjects. Probably the best expression of our general idea for the first one is represented by the science underlying the department “Erbarium” on the Italian pages of the website (there are over 175 millions of known plants to employ and over 800.000 species to study). For the second subject, there are some dissenting opinions from the general agreement about “no-limits” for stem cells therapy and nuclear transfer applications.
BM&L, promoting a new debate, reports from CMDA the official opinions expressed by David Stevens ed invites members and website’s visitors to participate through their e-mails.
Dutch legalize medical marijuana
The Netherlands, the first country to legalize physician-assisted suicide, has now become the first country in the world to make marijuana available by prescription to patients with HIV, cancer and multiple sclerosis, as of September 1st. Pharmaceutical companies have been given permission to grow special strains of marijuana in their laboratories, which will be sold to the Health Ministry to package and distribute.
In addition to pharmacies, 80 hospitals and 400 doctors are allowed to dispense a certain amount of cannabis. The Health Ministry recommends that the cannabis be diluted into tea or turned into a spray. The Dutch government also regulates prostitution and the sale of cannabis in coffee shops.
David Stevens, MD, CMDA Executive Director expresses his opinion: The Dutch move is no surprisesince marijuana is already legally available at coffee shops to anyone. There are studies that show some therapeutic benefit but the FDA has approved Marinol, a purified standardized extract of THC. It doesn’t work as fast but provides longer steady state blood levels. It avoids the quick up and downs and the 400 other chemicals, some toxic, consumed when smoking marijuana. Many medical marijuana supporters, such as those belonging to the “American Medical Marijuana Association”, see medical legalization as the first step of decriminalisation.
Adult Stem Cells Prevent Need for Heart Transplant
Four critically ill Brazilian heart patients who received stem cell therapy were taken off the list for a transplant after experiencing a distinct improvement in blood supply. The doctors took bone marrow from the patients and injected the cells into the main pumping chamber of the heart, the left ventricle. Experts believe the stem cells form new blood vessels or produce a chemical reaction that improves the functioning of cells in the locality of the injection.
Hans Fernando Rocha Dohmann of Rio de Janeiro and scientists from the Texas Health Science Center in Houston are experimenting with the four patients, who are part of a group of 14.
"This finding has a significant social relevance since there isn't a single heart transplant program anywhere in the world which is able to treat all the patients who need it," said Dohmann at the annual meeting of the European Society of Cardiology.
David Stevens, MD, CMDA Executive Director expresses his opinion: Another study released yesterday from the Cleveland Clinic reported that researchers had identified stromal cell derived factor 1 (SDF-1) which is released by damaged heart muscle for a short time following a heart attack. This chemical attracts some of the 30,000 stem cells circulating in the blood everyday to replace damaged tissue but the effect lasts only a few days. In mice, injected SDF attracted stem cells for weeks that not only replaced damaged cells but improved function. Every day it becomes much clearer that adult stem cells hold the most promise in regenerative medicine and their use preserves our most cherished principle of not destroying one person’s life to help another.
References and Links
1. Dutch Legalize Medical Marijuana Dutch OK pot as prescription drug. MSNBC.1 Sept 2003. http://www.msnbc.com/news/960000.asp?0si=-
2. Adult Stem Cells Prevent Need for Heart Transplant "Stem cells used to repair heart tissue." MSNBC. 1 Sept 2003. http://www.msnbc.com/news/959999.asp?0si=-