HUDSON — A potentially life-changing stem-cell appointment scheduled for their son in Germany has been canceled, leaving a Stafford County family searching for answers.
The notification for Ken and Brenda Grabast of Hudson came in an email from Anne Clausen, patient advisor for the XCell-Center in Dusseldorf, Germany.
“Unfortunately I have to give you a sad message,” Claussen wrote Thursday morning. “Due to a new development in German law, stem cell therapy is currently not possible to perform at the XCell-Center. Regretfully for this reason, we cannot offer a stem cell treatment. When stem cell therapy is possible once again to perform, the XCell-Center will notify all patients on the our web site or personally in an email.”
Derek Grabast, 8, was to undergo a stem-cell procedure at the XCell-Center in Germany to treat non-verbal autism and spastic quadriplegic cerebral palsy. The second-grader has a sign language vocabulary of about 70 words, but he is unable to talk or walk. He was diagnosed with cerebral palsy when he was 27 months old.
The stem-cell procedure extracts and treats patients with their own adult stem cells. Fundraising had helped the Grabasts raise more than $25,000 for the trip to Germany.
The court battle was apparently been ongoing since 1999 concerning a patent that argues that deriving human embryonic stem cells is an immoral action. The X-Cell Center works with a patient’s adult stem cells, not embryonic stem cells.
“This was Derek’s chance to get better and enjoy a better life. Our family and friends are all devastated,” Brenda said. “All we can do now is wait. Nothing was said to me about this law coming into effect. No warning, no idea — nothing! If the case is not overturned, then the XCell Center will have to re-patent their treatments and procedures, and that takes time.”
Brenda has read information from various sources.
“From what I gathered from online sources, Greenpeace has won a case affecting all of European medicine and stem cell treatments, and more specifically their patents on the treatments,” she said. “Since the patents are derived from research involving embryonic stem cells, Greenpeace proposed that the treatments from which those patents produced, are immoral and thus illegal.”
Brenda said the XCell Center was advised to temporarily suspend its operations.
“Even though the treatments do not involve embryonic stem cells, they are now suspended due to the patent material,” she said. “Hopefully they will lift the suspension soon, but until the case is reviewed and re-tried, Derek’s appointment has been cancelled.”
Brenda said it’s been frustrating not being able to get answers to questions.
“We have a friend in Germany who is trying to figure out what exactly is going on,” she said.
The web site PhysOrg.com filed the following report on the legal issue:
“This battle has been ongoing since 1999 when the international organization Greenpeace put forth a challenge on a patent by Oliver Brustle of the University of Bonn. They argued that his patent for neural precursor cells that were derived from available human embryonic stem cells (hESCs) violated the 1973 European Patent Convention by being immoral. The European Court of Justice is required to reach a decision in the upcoming weeks.
“What currently has scientists on edge is a statement made on March 10 by the courts advocate general Yves Bot where he essentially backed the Greenpeace challenge,” according to PhysOrg.com. “The courts have a history of backing some 80 percent of the cases in which he has put forth a recommendation.
“Bot argues that while hESCs are able to be purified and can be multiplied for researchers indefinitely, they were originally taken from human embryos that were destroyed. Because all patent applications of hESCs are a result of embryo destruction, they violate the European patent directive of 1998 that prohibits the use of embryos for commercial and industrial purposes.”
Should the courts decide to block patents involving hESCs it would stop all current research of stem cell treatments in Europe.”