Stem cell therapy: why we need to be suspicious about cure-all claims
Stem cells have long been considered a great hope of medicine, but unscrupulous clinics are marketing all sorts of treatments.
If you were to read many of the adverts for stem cell therapy that you can find online, you would be forgiven for believing that stem cell therapy is nothing short of a panacea. It is, according to those ads, able to improve all sorts of conditions, from knee pain and osteoarthritis, hair loss to heart disease, diabetes and even autism.
There’s just one problem – there’s little science behind many of the claims.
Stem cells are only approved for use in treating certain cancers and blood disorders, yet a search for the term on Facebook or Google will return details of a large number of clinics offering treatments for many other conditions.
The harsh reality is that while there is a lot of promising research being undertaken in this area, nobody should be parting with large sums of money for what may be currently no more than snake oil treatments, according to Noel Caplice, who is professor of cardiovascular sciences in the department of medicine at University College Cork and a consultant cardiologist. Caplice, who has more than 20 years’ experience monitoring stem cell research as part of his studies into heart disease, told The Irish Times that we should all be suspicious about the range of different ailments clinics are willing to treat with stem cells.
“There should be red lights flashing and alarm bells ringing. No therapy treats everything from Parkinson’s disease to multiple sclerosis to heart disease to knee pain – that’s idiotic. Medicine just doesn’t work like that.
“True stem cell therapy is extremely complex because you have to refine the type of cell you’re going to give to the organ it will be used in, and there are different challenges in different organs. Legitimate scientists are working on these things, but they are not there yet. It’s an incredibly difficult area of research.”
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All credits @Alex Meehan