Stem cells have a lot of potential, some of which is already being tapped to treat diseases like leukemia and blood disorders (via bone marrow transplants). Private clinics offering stem cell therapies are popping up everywhere. But with 200 of these clinics currently open worldwide, therapies are being offered to desperate patients that have not been tested, sometimes killing them. One such patient had kidney disease - so a private clinic injected stem cells into their kidney. One problem though - this route of administration had not been tested or confirmed. Complications developed - complications that are now known only because of this clinic's lack of ethics - and the patient died.
This situation is concerning to the International Society for Stem Cell Research. That's where their new website CloserLookatStemCells comes in. The Society has setup the website to provide patients information about the clinics and procedures they may be pursuing. So they can know what has been shown to work, what has not been done, and what they can actually expect based on the experimental literature and clinical testing.
One of the Canadian researchers who examined the circumstances surrounding the kidney case mentioned above summed it up as such:
"Premature enthusiasm and protocols that are not fully vetted are dangerous and result in negative publicity for the field of stem cell research, and more importantly, may result in disastrous outcomes with no benefit to the patient.
Although there is promise, a large gap still exists between scientific knowledge and clinical translation for safe and effective stem cell-based therapies."