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Nygård uses stem cells to pursue immortality

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The video begins like a clip from a James Bond movie, where the billionaire tycoon announces his plan to save humanity.

"Since the dawn of time, great men have challenged the status quo and dared to dream," an off-screen female narrator says in a sultry British accent while images of Leonardo da Vinci, Martin Luther King and other great historical figures parade across the screen.

The great man in question is none other than Peter Nygård, the Helsinki-born, Manitoba-raised fashion magnate best known as the founder of Nygård International.

And his plan to save humanity? Use stem-cell research to cure diseases and live forever, just as you would expect a billionaire tycoon to declare in a Bond movie.

In a 10-minute YouTube video titled Bahamas Stem Cell Laws: The Peter Nygård Breakthrough, the 70-year-old former Winnipegger claims to be at the forefront of scientific and legislative efforts to further the achievements of stem-cell research.

Nygård claims to have lobbied the Bahamian government to further stem-cell research, though the Bahamas Weekly reported the island nation's attorney general denied the billionaire was involved in drafting legislation.

That alone is fascinating, but Nygård isn't just a stem-cell advocate. He says he's personally involved in the research by receiving injections of his own cells grown in Peter, or rather, petri dishes.

Yes, Nygård claims he is actually getting younger. In his video, he calls stem-cell research a game-changer for humanity.

"This could eliminate all disease. This perhaps is immortality," he breathlessly states in a video that appears entirely serious.

"Ponce de Leon had the right idea. He was just too early," Nygård continues, referring to the 16th-century conquistador who searched for the fountain of youth. "That was then. This is now."

In the video, the septuagenarian is seen dancing with young women in a nightclub, leaning out of a sailboat, playing volleyball and otherwise "living a life that most could only dream of," according to the off-screen British female narrator.

Apparently, the reason Nygård can dance and sail and play at his age is not just due to copious quantities of money.

Nygård claims his stem-cell injections have reversed the aging process to the point where he's become something of a Finnish-Canadian superman.

"Stem cells are being used for anti-aging and the University of Miami is doing a study about that to prove that it is true. They are looking at me, and my markers have shown exactly that I have been actually reversing my aging and getting younger," Nygård told the Bahamas Tribune.

"I am taking perhaps more stem-cell treatment than anybody else in the world. I have been doing it for four years now, so I am sort of a testimonial that this stem cell really works."

If one were to review more authoritative sources on stem-cell research than, say, a Nygård-produced promotional video, you'd quickly discover that yes, stem-cell therapy holds a tremendous amount of promise.

Stem-cell treatments may one day cure cancers, repair spinal-cord injuries and alleviate the symptoms of Parkinson's disease and other neurological conditions.

The problem is, stem cells can be extracted from embryos and cloned, something that freaks out legislators in nations where embryonic stem-cell cloning is illegal.

"It's the word 'cloning' that creates an aura of terror in people's minds," explains Arthur Schafer, professor and director of the Centre for Professional and Applied Ethics at the University of Manitoba.

Schafer believes therapeutic cloning should be legal, as many researchers believe stem-cell cloning could be the greatest medical advance in history.

But Schafer is concerned about the way the technology may be used. For example, a treatment that may one day cure Alzheimer's also may be used to transform a wealthy, healthy individual into a genius, just like in sci-fi movies.

"We are already a deeply divided, deeply unequal society and this has the potential to create classes of people," Schafer said.

We should be cynical about an aging billionaire's motives for pushing stem-cell technology, he added.

"I don't see him as a great humanitarian seeking to better humankind," Schafer said of Nygård, whose own statements seem to bear out that cynicism.

"I may be the only person in the world who has my own embryonic cells growing in a petri dish," boasts Nygård in his video, sounding exactly like the billionaire-tycoon Bond villain we all suspected him of being long ago.

bartley.kives@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition February 28, 2014 0

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Updated on Friday, February 28, 2014 at 5:40 AM CST: Replaces photo

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About Bartley Kives

Bartley Kives wants you to know his last name rhymes with Beavis, as in Beavis and Butthead. He aspires to match the wit, grace and intelligence of the 1990s cartoon series.

Bartley joined the Free Press in 1998 as a music critic. He spent the ensuing 7.5 years interviewing the likes of Neil Young and David Bowie and trying to stay out of trouble at the Winnipeg Folk Festival before deciding it was far more exciting to sit through zoning-variance appeals at city hall.

In 2006, Bartley followed Winnipeg Mayor Sam Katz from the music business into civic politics. He spent seven years covering city hall from a windowless basement office.

He is now reporter-at-large for the Free Press and also writes an outdoor-recreation column called Offroad for the Outdoors page.

A canoeist, backpacker and food geek, Bartley is fond of conventional and wilderness travel. He is the author of A Daytripper’s Guide to Manitoba: Exploring Canada’s Undiscovered Province, the only comprehensive travel guidebook for Manitoba – and a Canadian bestseller, to boot. He is also co-author of Stuck In The Middle: Dissenting Views of Winnipeg, a collaboration with photographer Bryan Scott.

Bartley appears every second Wednesday on CityTV’s Breakfast Television. His work has also appeared on CBC Radio and in publications such as National Geographic Traveler, explore magazine and Western Living.

Born in Winnipeg, he has an arts degree from the University of Winnipeg and a master’s degree in journalism from Ottawa’s Carleton University. He is the proud owner of a blender.

On Twitter: @bkives
Email: bartley.kives@freepress.mb.ca

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