Are Stem Cell Treatment Centers the Newest “Snake Oil” Salespeople?

Are Stem Cell Treatment Centers the Newest "Snake Oil" Salespeople?Stem cells hold abundant promise that one day, they will be able to repair and regenerate tissue and create seemingly miraculous therapies customized for an individual. The problem is that stem cell therapy is still in its infancy; unless a patient is undergoing hematopoietic stem cell (HSC) transplantation, his or her treatment is an experimental one. Yet, there are hundreds of stem cell treatment centers across the United States which are cashing in on empty promises of cures of devastating diseases such as Alzheimer’s, muscular dystrophy, macular degeneration and others. These stem cell clinics sell patients on the promise that they can repair these serious health conditions, despite their knowing that they are not likely to be able to keep those promises, and in other cases may end up causing harm to patients in the process. Patients injured after undergoing unproven and unapproved treatments may be able to take legal action to recover compensation for their injuries and other losses, by filing a claim or bringing a lawsuit for stem cell therapy malpractice.

What are stem cells?

Stem cells are the “master cells” of the body because they are the precursor to every other type of cell that exists in the body. A stem cell holds the infinite potential to develop into blood, brain cells, bones or organs. They hold so much promise in the medical field because they have the potential to repair and regenerate, restore and replace cells in the treatment of many medical conditions and diseases. (FDA)

Contrasting results from stem cell treatments

In a story covered on NPR and published in the New England Journal of Medicine, three elderly women were blinded after stem cells derived from fat tissue were used as a treatment for macular degeneration in a for-profit stem cell treatment center in Florida. Each woman had cells that were extracted from their fat cells and injected into both eyes. The NPR story reported on the case of a Japanese patient who was also suffering from macular degeneration underwent a similar treatment with stem cells derived from skin cells, and they saw a halt in their loss of vision.

What are the facts about stem cell treatment in the United States?

Aside from cord blood-derived hematopoietic progenitor cells (blood forming stem cells), the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not approved any stem cell-based products. Stem cell treatments are largely experimental, and consumers should discuss the risks and benefits of a procedure with their doctor, and make sure that the necessary FDA approval has been had, or if a clinical study is being conducted according to FDA regulations before undergoing stem cell treatment.

Stem cell treatment centers in the Washington, DC Metro area

The following is a list of stem cell treatment centers that offer stem cell therapies in the Metro area:

  • Silver Spring Medical clinic
  • Stem Cell Arts
  • New View Eye Center
  • Stem Cell Clinic o Washington
  • Virginia Surgical Center

These clinics are offering treatments for:

  • Tendonitis
  • Arthritis
  • Sports injuries
  • Vision problems
  • Other health conditions

The FDA says that stem cell therapies hold potential promise, while also raising serious safety concerns including the ability of the cells to migrate from the site of administration and differentiate (transform) into inappropriate cell types causing excessive cell growth and the possible development of tumors.

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