Study finds that at least 351 companies across the United States are marketing unproven and unregulated stem cell procedures at 570 individual clinics.
Stem cell treatments have been a hot research topic in recent years. Stem cells have a remarkable potential to develop into different type of cells in the body and they can offer remedies for many diseases or provide relief from chronic pain conditions. No wonder more clinics in the United States are offering stem cell treatments than ever before.
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While stem cells are beneficial in treating various diseases, health risks are also associated with them. According to a new study, at least 351 companies across the US are offering unapproved stem cells procedures at 570 individual clinics and these are for serious diseases such as Alzheimer’s, autism, heart disease, injured spinal cords as well as for facelifts and other cosmetic enhancements.
Using internet key word searchers, text mining and content analysis of company websites, researchers from UC Davis have tracked those companies selling stem cell interventions and found they have sprouted up across the United States and are exposing “vulnerable individuals to unjustifiable risks.”
“In almost every state now, people can go locally 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, travelling 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 what when we think of stem cell tourism.” Paul Knoepfler, stem cell researcher from University of California, Davis said.
Though clinics offering unproven stem cell treatments have been found throughout the country, their hotspots are California, Florida, Texas, Colorado and Arizona. Beverly Hills alone is the home to 18 clinics, which is more than any other city.
The stem cell procedure which is mostly advertised by the clinics is the one that treats patients with stem cells taken from their own fat cells. Bone marrow based treatments are also offered to many patients.
These clinics are claiming to treat a wide range of diseases and injuries. The top of the list is orthopedic injuries while pain and sports injuries are also their priority. but unfortunately most of these interventions are not approved by FDA.
“This is a marketplace that is dramatically expanding before our eyes – we were aware early on and tracked it early on, but I don’t think we knew the scope and size of the market.” Leigh Turner from University of Minnesota said.
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Although the report does not accuse any of them of committing fraud, but there are chances that some may take advantage of the confusing nature of stem cells and may exploit lack of regulation by Food and Drug Administration.