Monday, August 22, 2016

'Unnerved' Researchers and Proliferation of Stem Cell Clinics: The Perspective from Los Angeles Times

The Los Angeles Times this past weekend picked up on the growing concern about the spread of dubious stem cell clinics triggered in many ways by a first-ever study by a UC Davis stem cell researcher. 

Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist Michael Hiltzik wrote,
"The proliferation of clinics nationwide offering stem cell therapies unnerves many researchers, who fear that unrealistic public expectations could undermine their own credibility. Patients with hard-to-treat conditions such as multiple sclerosis and Parkinson’s are easy marks who can be led to forgo established therapies in favor of unproven ones."
The headline on Hiltzik's piece said,
"These new stem cell treatments are expensive — and unproven"
Hiltzik interviewed a California lawyer who is working in the field. Hiltzik wrote,
"'Stem cell scientists include the best and the brightest doing great work, and I admire them,' says Janice Mulligan, a San Diego attorney currently assembling evidence for a potential class-action lawsuit against unnamed stem cell clinics. "At the other end of the scale, there’s snake oil.'"
Hiltzik also spoke to Paul Knoepfler, the UC Davis researcher who co-authored the study about stem cell clinics with Leigh Turner of the University of Minnesota. Hiltzik wrote,
"In an article just published in Stem Cells Translational Medicine, Knoepfler described his visit to one informational seminar sponsored by a clinic pitching a $5,999 stem cell treatment to about 30 attendees. Each was given a pack of forms to fill out, including a credit application. The spiel, he reported, featured personal anecdotes and 'questionable medical claims' — including the assertion that '90% of patients had a 50% or better improvement.'"
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