A new report reveals the truth behind a wide variety of stem cell 'treatments' offered in the U.S.
Stem cells have raised a considerable amount of controversy in recent decades, but many scientists still tout their many potential benefits. According to a report from the Washington Post, the debate over stem cell research and treatments has paved the way for a massive underground market for treatments that are by and large, unregulated.
According to stem cell researcher and author of a new study entitled “Selling Stem Cells in the USA: Assessing the Direct-to-Consumer Industry,” Paul Knoepfler from the University of California, Davis, “In almost every state now, people can locally go to get stem cell ‘treatments.’ Many people in larger metropolitan areas can just drive 15 minutes to find a clinic offering these kinds of services instead of, say, traveling to Mexico or the Caribbean. I think this reflects a change from what we’ve seen documented in the past and is different from what we typically think about when we think of stem cell tourism.”
People all over the country are beginning to seek stem cell treatments for conditions like osteoarthritis, Alzheimer’s disease, autism and damaged spinal cords in addition to cosmetic improvements.
The study found that clinics offering treatments for these conditions were popping up around the country, and the majority of them were unregulated. The researchers found 113 such clinics in California, 104 in Florida, and 71 in Texas. Nearly two-thirds of the clinics examined in the study were offering treatments involving stem cells derived from a person’s body fat, and nearly half of the offered treatments used bone marrow.
Currently, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved only a small list of stem cell treatments; meaning that the majority of those performed in the country are unregulated. According to Michael Werner, the executive director of the Alliance for Regenerative Medicine, “The proliferation of the so-called stem-cell clinics is potentially harmful because the treatments may not undergo, or have not undergone, the appropriate scientific rigor that takes place in evaluating new technologies and new medical treatments.”
A press release from the University of California Davis describing the details of the report can be found here.