Neurologists warn of the danger of “stem cell tourism”

Microscope image of fluorescent cells.

Enlarge / Skeletal stem
cells are shown here in red. (credit:
Noriaki Ono
)

Stem cells hold the promise of helping us repair tissues damaged
by disease or injury. But outside of bone marrow stem cells, it
remains largely a promise, as we’re just starting clinical trials
to determine if we can use these cells effectively. But that hasn’t
stopped people from offering stem cell “treatments” with no basis
in evidence. Many of the clinics that offer these services are
based overseas, leading to what’s been termed “stem cell tourism.”
But a number take advantage of ambiguities in Food and Drug Agency
regulations to operate in the United States.

A new survey of doctors suggests that a surprising number of
their patients are using these services—sometimes with severe
consequences. And many doctors don’t feel like they’re prepared to
deal with them.

Widespread interest

The work focuses on neurologists, who specialize in treating
diseases of the nervous system. These include diseases like
Parkinson’s and multiple sclerosis, for which there are few
effective treatments—although stem cells have undergone some
preliminary tests in the case of Parkinson’s. Given the lack of
established options, it wouldn’t be surprising if these patients
turned to therapies that haven’t been established, like those
involving stem cells.

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Source: FS – All – Science – News
Neurologists warn of the danger of “stem cell
tourism”