Monday, May 30, 2011

Stem Cells; Searching For A Cure

A few days ago I ran across an interesting article at Stanford Medicine Magazine entitled; "Peddling hope". The author Krista Conger wrote in detail about desperate and dying patients paying an exorbitant amount of money for injections of mysterious concoctions of "cells" which apparently cure just about every ailment known to man. These therapies are promoted by unscrupulous enterprising entrepreneurs through numerous websites online. The informative article sheds a light on the unfortunate patients who travel abroad to these facilities dubbed "stem cell clinics" searching courageously for a cure. The author writes;
“Harm is being done at a lot of levels,” agrees Loring. “But on the list of things that offend me, the false hope they offer to patients is at the top.”
But the hope is cleverly packaged. “These clinics never promise a patient will be healed,” says Sipp. “They’ll say things like, ‘most patients experience an improvement.’ And, when you’ve spent a lot of your own money, or money that was given to you by friends or relatives, the incentive to report that the treatment helped is very strong. There’s a lot of room for the placebo effect.”
“It’s a worldwide industry,” says Sipp, who estimates there are about 300 clinics that offer what they claim to be stem-cell-based treatments for everything from autism to diabetes, from ALS to cancer. “And recently we’ve been seeing a growing complement of places in the United States that either refer people to nearby international clinics in Mexico or the Dominican Republic for the treatment, or even perform procedures domestically.”

By tracking the number of patients some of the bigger clinics state they have treated, Sipp has concluded that tens of thousands of people may have received unproven stem cell treatments worldwide during the past decade, which indicates a market size approaching $1 billion.

Please do read the full article here.

In Germany a clinic offering experimental stem cell injections was shut down in August 2010 because of the death of an 18-month-old boy after a brain injection. The clinic "XCell" also has a clinic in Dusseldorf and one in Cologne,Germany although both clinics are now closed. Here is the article;
Europe's largest stem cell clinic, which is at the centre of a scandal over the death of a baby given an injection into the brain, has been shut down.

08 May 2011

The closure of the XCell-Center in Dusseldorf follows an undercover investigation by The Sunday Telegraph into its controversial practices, which attracted hundreds of patients from the UK. The clinic charged patients up to £20,000 for stem cell injections into the back and brain despite a lack of scientific proof that the treatments actually worked.

Experts in stem cell research had accused the clinic of preying on vulnerable patients, desperately seeking a cure for such illnesses and diseases as cerebral palsy, multiple sclerosis, autism, Parkinson's, Alzheimer's, heart disease, diabetes and spinal cord injuries.

While most other European countries - as well as the US, Canada and Australia - have banned stem cell treatments unless shown to be safe and effective, XCell had exploited a loophole in German law allowing it to charge for the experimental procedures.

But last week, the clinic suddenly announced it had ceased carrying out operations due to what it described as legal changes in Germany. In a posting on its website, XCell said last week: "Due to a new development in German law, stem cell therapy is currently not possible to perform at the XCell-Center. Regretfully for this reason, we must cancel your appointment until further notice. We will notify you for further updates about the matter."...full story here.

This "60 Minutes" show previewed in 2010, I remember watching the it with my friend, she passed from ALS six months after being diagnosed. You can view part two of the video here.
21st Century Snake Oil, Part 1

September 12, 2010 5:00 PM

"60 Minutes" hidden cameras expose medical con men who prey on dying victims by using pitches that capitalize on the promise of stem cells to cure almost any disease. Scott Pelley reports


Follow Up From U-M

Sean Morrison, director of the U-M Center for Stem Cell Biology

ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Patients should be wary of claims made by the operators of stem cell clinics outside the United States who offer unproven and potentially dangerous disease treatments, University of Michigan researcher Sean Morrison said during a segment of the CBS program “60 Minutes” that aired Sunday night.

“There are clinics that have been set up in countries with unregulated medical systems that are making claims that are not based on sound scientific and medical evidence,” said Morrison, director of the U-M Center for Stem Cell Biology.

“People who claim that they can cure diseases in the absence of strong scientific evidence are selling snake oil and preying on the hopes of desperate patients,” Morrison said during an interview conducted after the “60 Minutes” crew visited his Life Sciences Institute laboratory.
Clinics offering unproven stem cell therapies have arisen in countries such as China, Russia and Mexico. In many cases, there is little or no scientific evidence to support the effectiveness of treatments offered by these clinics, Morrison said. Yet patients are charged large amounts of money for the therapies, based on the promise that bone marrow or umbilical-cord-blood stem cells can cure their disease.
Political opponents of embryonic stem cell research in the United States have claimed that bone marrow or umbilical-cord-blood stem cells can cure more than 70 diseases. Morrison said this claim is inaccurate: To date, bone marrow and umbilical-cord-blood stem cells have only been proven effective for the treatment of blood and immune system diseases.
“If your doctor doesn’t have compelling reason to believe that your disease can be treated effectively with the therapy that is being offered, and if there’s no compelling evidence in the scientific literature that this treatment really is a cure, and if it hasn’t been the basis of sound clinical trials that are open to the light of day and replicated in independent clinics, then there is reason to be skeptical, and you should be very cautious about seeking treatment in those clinics,” Morrison said.
These clinics operate outside of the United States because the U.S. Food and Drug Administration would prevent them from making these claims or offering their therapies in the this country, due to the lack of evidence supporting the safety or efficacy of the therapies, Morrison said.
“The unproven therapies are not sold to patients in the United States because medical care, stem cell research, and human-subjects research are tightly regulated here,” he said.
Clinical trials are being launched now in this country to test whether various types of stem cells can reduce the symptoms of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease.
Dr. Eva Feldman, director of the U-M’s A. Alfred Taubman Medical Research Institute, will test whether implantation of neural stem cells benefits ALS patients. These studies are promising. But until approved clinical trials like this one have been completed, it will remain unknown whether stem cell transplantation can help these patients, or what kind of stem cell is most effective.
“Stem cell research offers exciting new opportunities to cure disease, and promising research is being done in many countries throughout the world,” Morrison said. “However, years of additional research will be required to determine which diseases can be treated effectively, and how. Until that research is done, and the safety and effectiveness of new therapies are confirmed in clinical trials, there is no basis on which to represent potential new therapies as cures.”


If you want to learn more about Stem Cell Research; Click Here

These publications and references will provide a general understanding of stem cells and how they work..

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Answers to commonly asked questions on stem cell science.


Refer to our glossary for definitions of scientific terms.

Stem Cell Facts

This downloadable brochure provides an introduction to stem cell research and contains a short glossary of commonly used terms.

Stem Cell Briefings

Read about advances in stem cell research.

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