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A Chinese neurosurgeon claims to have successfully used cells from aborted foetuses to treat people with conditions such as spinal cord injuries and multiple sclerosis.

Despite Hongyun Huang's reported success in treating nearly 600 people, Western scientists remain highly sceptical, reports David Cyranoski in this article in Nature. The world's major scientific journals share the view that Huang's work is not rigorous enough, and have all rejected his papers. Chinese journals, however, have published his work nine times.

Huang claims few patients have had side-effects from his methods, which involve injecting nasal tissue from aborted foetuses into damaged nerve tissue. He says chemicals released from the injected cells can regenerate the damaged nerves.

Huang says his US$20,000 treatments work in most patients, a statement he backs up with videotapes and anecdotal accounts from previous clients.

But these forms of record-keeping are unacceptable as evidence, say other neuroscientists. They advise Huang to use more rigorous methods such as electrical recordings of muscle activity to show changes in nerve activity.

They say the lack of proof, and the fact that Huang does not match tissue types to prevent rejection, makes his work too risky for humans.

Huang maintains that since ethics boards have approved his work, he is not too worried about the opinions of other scientists — after all, he is not short of patients willing to pay thousands for the hope of recovery.

Link to full article in Nature

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