Sunday, June 16, 2019

Stem Cell Researchers Backing Away from Documentary Touting 'Greatest Paradigm Shift in Medical History'

What do Maria Millan, CEO of the $3 billion California stem cell agency, Larry Goldstein of UC San Diego, Thomas Murphy of Harvard/MIT  and Mark Berman of Cell Surgical Network have in common this morning?

They are all loosely listed as "trusted sources" on a website ballyhooing a 10-part documentary involving stem cells. All are identified as taking part in the documentary. Berman's firm, however, is a target of the Food and Drug Administration, which is seeking to halt the enterprise's "unproven and potentially dangerous treatments." 

Erin Allday of the San Francisco Chronicle reported on the connections in a story this weekend that said some of the scientists involved in the documentary, scheduled to be released tomorrow, want out of the online video because it is partly funded by Berman's firm. 

The documentary is titled "The Healthcare Revolution." The Internet address of Berman's firm is"  It also offers a book called "The Stem Cell Revolution." The business has offices in Beverly Hills and Rancho Mirage, Ca., and is linked to reportedly dozens of similar enterprises.

Allday quoted Berman as saying in an email to patients last week,
“We have a wonderful docuseries coming out. It’s a whole production, not just about us. It’s going to enlighten people."
The website of the documentary features ebullient language about stem cells. "Stem cell technology that is said to be 10, 20 years down the road is actually here --  NOW!" reads one sentence on the video site.  The largest headline on the site said in bold red type, 

"This Must See Documentary Series Unveils the Greatest 
Paradigm Shift in Medical History"

Allday's story said some of the scientists involved in the documentary now say "they weren’t aware of who was backing the project when they agreed to participate...Some scientists said they fear the documentary may promote what they consider junk science."

Allday continued, 
"In fact, many of the scientists listed on the website have said repeatedly that stem cell therapies are still years away from being ready for patients. They have said that the hundreds of providers treating patients at for-profit clinics are selling 'snake oil' products that are worthless and potentially unsafe. No stem cell therapy currently sold at for-profit clinics has been approved by the FDA."
The Chronicle article said the California stem cell agency did not know who was financing the documentary when it agreed to participate.  A spokesman for the agency, known formally as the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine, told Allday that the agency agreed to participate because it would provide an opportunity to promote its work and warn against dubious clinics. 

One scientist who was scheduled to appear in the documentary is Jeanne Loring, professor emeritus at Scripps Research in La Jolla. She told Allday, “I am a stalwart and outspoken critic of unapproved stem cell therapies. I don’t belong in their company."

She said the producers of the video agreed to remove her from the documentary. 

More than 80 physicians and scientists are listed as "trusted sources" or experts on the video website along with a number of major academic institutions, including Stanford, Harvard, John Hopkins, Yale and Oxford.  Also listed is Kristin Comella, chief scientific officer of U.S. Stem Cells, Inc., which earlier this month lost a key ruling in lawsuit filed by the FDA against it. 

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