July 29, 2009 / 10:29 AM / 10 years ago

Hungary detains 4 over illegal stem cell treatment

BUDAPEST, July 29 (Reuters) - Hungarian police have detained four people on suspicion of carrying out illegal, untested stem cell treatments using embryos or aborted fetuses at a Hungarian private clinic, police said in a statement.

The statement, posted on the official police website www.police.hu late on Tuesday, said the suspects — two Hungarians, one U.S. and one Ukrainian citizen — were detained on July 27 just as they were preparing to treat a new patient.

Police said they launched a procedure on "suspicion of a banned use of the human body."

"There is well-founded suspicion that a U.S. citizen called Julliy B. has carried out stem cell treatments for money within the framework of a Hungarian stem cell research laboratory and a Hungarian-owned private clinic since 2007," police said.

The Ukrainian suspect prepared the stem cell doses and patients generally paid $25,000 or 5 million Hungarian forints for a treatment, police said.

Police said the suspect gained the stem cells from embryos or aborted fetuses.

The doses had not been tested, and the suspects carried out the treatments without permission from Hungary’s health authorities, police said in the statement.

Police carried out house searches and seized computers and documents.

Police officials declined to give further details beyond what was in the statement.

Stem cells are the body’s master cells, the source of all cells and tissue, including brain, blood, heart, bones and muscles. Embryonic stem cells come from days-old embryos and can produce any type of cell in the body.

Scientists generally harvest embryonic stem cells from embryos left over after in vitro fertilization attempts at fertility clinics. (Reporting by Krisztina Than; Editing by Sonya Hepinstall)

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