Unapproved Stem Cell Treatments Sold In The US By Hundreds Of Clinics, Study Reveals

A study says that hundreds of clinics are selling unapproved stem cell treatments in the U.S. The research claims that at least 351 U.S. companies with 570 clinics across the country are marketing stem cell treatments that are unapproved which range from simple health issues such as aging skin to more complex conditions including spinal cord injuries.

These “stem cell clinics” were located in several states that include Florida, New York, California, Arizona, Colorado and Texas. However, they found much more scattered in various states.

These clinics sell unapproved stem cell treatments for people suffering from orthopedic conditions including injured tendon and ligaments, as well as arthritis. But medical experts warned that the science behind stem cell therapies for orthopedic problems is still “experimental.” Some of them also market stem cell therapies, regardless of the lack of supporting evidence, for more serious health issues, including Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis and chronic lung cancer.

Study author and stem cell scientist Paul Knoepfler from the University of California at Davis School of Medicine said:

“In almost every state now, people can go locally to get stem cell ‘treatments.’ That’s different from what we typically think about when we think of stem cell tourism.”

The authors conducted an extensive online research on U.S. companies that are engaged in marketing stem cell treatments directly to consumers. They found 113 of such clinics in California, 104 in Florida and 71 in Texas. They found several “hot spots,” including San Antonio, New York and Beverly Hills.

The research data showed that these companies are offering unapproved procedures wherein the stem cells are procured from the patient’s own fat. Nearly half of the clinics are offering treatments using bone marrow-based stem cell procedures.

The study authors did not accuse the clinics of illegal operations, however, they called for federal officials to step in and address the oversight. Co-author Leigh Turner, an associate professor at the University of Minnesota’s Center for Bioethics, said they are worried that the unapproved stem cell treatments can cause “serious harm” to the patients.

He added:

“There is an obvious need for the FDA, FTC (Federal Trade Commission), state medical boards and other regulatory bodies to play a more effective role in regulating the marketplace for stem cell interventions.”

Stem cells are primitive cells that can be persuaded into becoming nearly almost any type of cell. This suggests that therapies based on stem cells can help address many medical problems. Unfortunately, these cells also carry huge risks. They can develop into tumors and travel to other parts of the body.

The research was published in the Cell Stem Cell journal on June 30.

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