18 Aug 2010

Stem cell research trial faces more delays

10:33 am on 18 August 2010

The latest bid for stem cell research to be done on paraplegics has been held up by an ethics committee.

The Spinal Cord Society has failed to get the committee to fast-track approval for a trial at Otago University.

Researchers plan to transplant stem cells from patients' own nasal tissue into their damaged spines, in a procedure that's been carried out about 200 times internationally.

The Spinal Cord Society, which made its initial application four years ago, says the endless delays are political, not scientific, and certainly not ethical. Founder and chairwoman Noela Vallis says the delays are prolonging the suffering for people in wheelchairs.

The Multi-region Ethics Committee says patient safety must come first, and while the society's frustration is understandable, due process is being followed.

Ms Vallis was on Wednesday appearing before Parliament's Health Select Committee, which is holding an inquiry following complaints that the ethics system is too cumbersome.