In our hunt for the latest and greatest medical treatments, stem cell clinics have popped up across the nation.
Stem cell research has been in the public eye since the discovery of stem cells in human cord blood. The scientific community has had such hope for stem cell therapies, but we have yet to see much progress in our everyday practice of medicine. After years of research, the academic community is finally starting to gain momentum in this area and is starting to see results.
But what took so long to get results? Safety! We have been able to manipulate stem cells for a very long time, but the side effects were numerous. It took years of research and safety precautions in these labs to decrease the side effect profile. As these side effects have been overcome, we are now starting to see promise in treatment.
The Google Generation
However, with the information available at our fingertips through the internet, people have taken these ideas and prematurely started profiting off of them. Stem cell therapies have had success in treating a variety of illness, from paralysis to Multiple Sclerosis. Diseases that we can’t cure are taking the spotlight.
People read a headline and generalize it and apply it inappropriately. When the MS world learned of a stem cell study involving the cure of ONE patient, the community ran with the idea. Paralyzed patients were given a ray of hope when they heard about the success of Kris Boesen. Instead of looking at these studies in depth, the concept of “stem cell therapy” was watered down to include everyone with a non-curable disease. As the general population started demanding access to these therapies, some in the medical community began to respond with for-profit stem cell clinics.
How Do Stem Cell Clinics Work?
Stem cell clinics are not regulated by the FDA. The basic concept is that stem cells are taken from the patient (from fat or cheek cells), they are largely unmaniupulated, and then transfused back to the patient. Because these cells are not manipulated, the FDA did not regulate this market. These clinics do not have to report side effects or prove any of the claims they make. And while the FDA does not regulate these clinics, they have had to shut down several hundred of them, largely due to sanitary/sterility.
The Misuse of Information
Stem cell therapy is actually exciting to me as a medical therapy. No, I do not think it is a miracle cure for every disease out there. But I do think we will have life-changing medical advances as a result of this research. My problem with stem cell clinics is 1) the lack of regulation and 2) the misuse of medical information.
I earlier talked about the studies performed in MS patients. We now have hundreds of MS patients running to these clinics for treatment. But have any of these people read the study? I doubt it seeing that the study first required significantly toxic chemotherapy to completely knock out the patients immune system before rebuilding a new immune system with the stem cells. This is not the procedure patients with MS are getting when they walk into these clinics. And what about the fact that these stem cells are unmanipulated? In the studies showing promise, including Kris Boesen’s case, the stem cells were highly manipulated to ensure adequate generation of certain cell lines.
How Can You Safely Get Access to Stem Cell Therapies?
As we progress in our scientific breakthroughs, patients and doctors are wanting immediate access to these results. But our impatience is not helping push these therapies out any quicker. We are creating expensive, unregulated, and unproven therapies that then give true stem cell therapy a bad name. But there is a better way! Find an academic institution specializing in your disease. Get their opinion, see if you qualify for trials, and don’t expect instant results. Remember, if it sounds to good to be true, IT IS!