The dangers of unregulated stem cell “therapies”

Professor Peter Hollands, WideCell’s Group Chief Scientific Officer, comments on unethical and unproven stem cell “therapies” and advises on how to sort the snake oil promises from the genuine science:

The early 21st century offers some amazing services to people which did not exist a few years ago. Virtually any question can be answered in seconds using an internet search.

There are pharmaceuticals to effectively treat most common diseases and early diagnosis, and thanks to ever improving scan technology, disease intervention is earlier and therefore more effective.

This increase in knowledge and general health is resulting in a significant increase in life expectancy, especially in developed countries, resulting in a significant increase in those people aged 60 or over on a global basis. This older population does, however, mean that the number of people who are more likely to develop serious diseases such as neurodegenerative disease is higher and at present there are no clear therapies for such problems.

Immoral exploitation

This set of circumstances results in a situation where there are many, well-informed, relatively rich people who are seeking out possible treatments for diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, motor neuron disease and multi system atrophy and also to simple “wear and tear” conditions of old age such as arthritis and decreased vision. Conventional medicine has little, if anything, to offer such patients in terms of a cure. Such patients naturally go to the internet seeking answers and cures and this is where the problems can begin.

The internet can very easily produce a very large amount of information on stem cell treatments. Some of this information will be based on treatments which have been through clinical trial to clearly demonstrate the safety and efficacy of the treatment. This is ethically and morally correct. A great deal of the information on stem cell “treatments” on the internet is, however, not based on the safety and efficacy of the treatment but is more concerned with profit and greed with no thought at all for the patients or their wellbeing. This an immoral exploitation of vulnerable patients which is totally unacceptable.

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