Many stem cell clinics make claims that do not support current science.
Stem cells are a promising tool for understanding and treating a variety of conditions, including injuries and diseases. They are being used to treat blood diseases, which has saved the lives of many children with leukemia. Their potential can also be seen in stem cell tissue grafts, which treat bone, skin, and eye injuries. Many other conditions are undergoing important clinical trials that involve stem cells. Researchers continue to explore new ways to use stem cells in medicine.
Although there is much to be learned about stem cells, the current applications of their use as treatments are often exaggerated by media, other parties, and clinics looking to make a profit by selling treatments for chronically ill and seriously injured patients. This page will help you to understand the potential and limitations of stem cells, as well as to spot misinformation being spread by clinics that offer unproven treatments.
These Nine Things To Know and all research you have done with your primary physician and other trusted members of your healthcare team are important in helping you decide what is best for you.
There are very few stem-cell treatments that have been shown to be safe and effective.
Although stem cell therapies have been proven to be effective for many diseases, the list is not complete. The most widely used and well-known stem cell treatment is hematopoietic stem cell transplantation (or blood), to treat certain immune system disorders and to rebuild the blood after some types of cancer treatments.
Grafting or implanting tissue can be used to treat certain bone, skin, and corneal (eye), injuries and diseases. The healing process depends on the stem cells in this tissue. The medical community has accepted these procedures as safe and effective. The clinical trial results for all other stem cell applications are still being completed and should not be taken as a definitive verdict.
You have nothing to lose by trying an unproven treatment
It is easy to see why, if there is no effective treatment available for a condition or disease, you might feel that there is nothing to lose by trying something new even though it may not be proven. The majority of unproven stem-cell treatments available for sale around the globe have a very limited promise of benefit and can pose very real risks.
Complications can lead to new or worsening health issues in the short- and long term, as well as making it more difficult for you to manage your symptoms.
Receipt for one experimental or unproven treatment could make you ineligible to future clinical trials.
It is possible to incur enormous out-of-pocket costs. There may also be additional fees such as accommodation costs or other fees. Most insurance companies and government programs don’t cover experimental treatments.
Travel involves additional considerations such as time away from family and friends.
Be sure to carefully evaluate the treatment before you decide whether you want to try it. Consider the potential risks and benefits. Ask your family members and your healthcare team for their input. They may have insight that you didn’t know about.
Different stem cells have different functions in the body.
Different types of stem cells come from different parts of your body and serve different purposes. Find out more about the different types of stem cells.
Scientists are investigating the possible roles that tissue-specific stem cells might play in healing. They also know that stem cells have limited and specific capabilities. Tissue-specific stem cells cannot be modified in the laboratory to generate other types of cells in the tissues they reside in. The blood-forming stem cells (hematopoietic stem cells) found in bone marrow can regenerate blood cells, while neural stem cells from the brain create brain cells. Hematopoietic stem cells won’t make a brain cell by itself, and vice versa. It is not possible to use a single type of cell to treat multiple unrelated diseases that affect different tissues and organs.
Different conditions or diseases may require different stem cell treatments.
Stem cells that are only able to make certain cells in a particular tissue cannot be made in another tissue without careful manipulation in a lab. It is unlikely that stem cells can be used for different diseases within the body.
Scientists have discovered how to create certain types of specialized cells using pluripotent cells. These are also known as embryonic stem cells (ESC) or induced pluripotent cells (iPSC). These cells can form any type of cell in the body, and they offer a great opportunity to create new treatments. Embryonic stem cells and iPS cells are not suitable for direct treatments. They require specific instruction in order to grow the cells required to repair damaged or diseased tissue. These stem cells can grow too fast and create tumors if they are not directed correctly.
The science behind a disease must match the science behind its treatment
You will be better equipped to choose the best treatment options for your condition if you have a good understanding of the causes and consequences. Transplantation with blood-forming stem cell transplants is possible if you have a specific type of blood cancer. This is because the treatment requires that those cells do what they were designed to do. A blood-forming stem cell treatment is not recommended for people with diabetes. The problem lies in the pancreas, and not in the blood. Tissue-specific stem cells cannot generate other types of cell types without careful and thorough manipulation in the laboratory.