The Hungarian police arrested four people, two foreigners and two Hungarians, on charges of illegally treating patients with stem cells, and a court ruled on Wednesday that the four were to be held in preliminary detention, the local wire service MTI reported.
The four, including Yuliy Baltaytis, a U.S. citizen, a Ukrainian national identified only as Natalia K., Istvan Seffer, a Hungarian doctor, and a second Hungarian, believed to be Sandor Szabo, worked out of a medical clinic in Kaposvar, southwest Hungary, where Seffer's brother was director and Seffer and Szabo were part-owners.
They were accused of injecting stem cells into patients over a two-year period beginning in 2007 and ending with their arrest. They charged about 25,000 U.S. dollars to administer the treatments. The products administered to the patients were untested on either humans or animals, and the effects were unknown, National Bureau of Investigation spokesman Soma Csecsi said.
Natalia K. is said to have provided the stem cells, from aborted fetuses.
Hungarian authorities granted the clinic, a company called IRM operating out of the Seffer and Renner Private Clinic, a permit to store stem cells in 2007, but suspended it in February 2008.
Police say this was not the only venue where the suspects treated patients with stem cells, adding that they did not have permits to implant stem cells at any of these places.
Police seized computers and documents in house searches at the time of the arrests. They were unable to give the number of people who had been treated, saying only "quite a few" and believing there could be over one hundred of them.
Seffer Clinic Director Tibor Seffer, brother of Dr. Istvan Seffer who was arrested, said his clinic specializes in plastic surgery and had leased a laboratory to the IRM company, which had been licensed only to store stem cells but had closed after its operation permit was revoked.
Stem cells are undifferentiated cells found in fetuses and adult bone marrow that have the ability to develop into any of the specialized cells that make up the human body. They help the body to renew and repair itself. While adult stem cells -- from bone marrow -- are used in treatment of diseases, there is a great deal of scientific and social controversy regarding embryonic stem cells.