​Be hopeful, but also cautious

Stem Cell CautionThere is indeed a great deal of promise regarding stem cells. Between newspaper headlines and Internet testimonials, it is indeed tempting to think cures are right around the corner. But the stem cell field is still very new. Not enough is known about how stem cells work; moving from research to the clinic is long and complicated. Clouding the picture are high expectations for stem cells, fueled by lots of Internet noise.

There are many clinics outside the United States and outside mainstream medicine that offer, for large fees, unproven stem cell therapies. None of these clinics can back up claims of recovery with published, credible science. Fueled by very motivated patients who seem to feel they have nothing to lose, stem cell tourism is a big business -- despite warnings from reputable scientists and numerous reports of stem cell scams and fraud. Before you or someone you know considers such a treatment, be a responsible consumer; make an effort to understand the risks.

Ask lots of questions. Please visit the Closer Look At Stem Cells website from the International Society for Stem Cell Research.

Some essential questions to ask a stem cell clinic

  • Is the treatment FDA-approved, and if not, why not?Will this affect whether I can get into another clinical trial?
  • What benefits can I expect?
  • How will this be measured, and how long will it take?
  • What other medications or special care might I need?
  • How is this stem cell procedure done?
  • What is the source of the stem cells?
  • How are the stem cells identified, isolated, and grown?
  • Are the cells differentiated into specialized cells before therapy?
  • How do I know if the cells are delivered to the right part of my body?
  • If the cells are not my own, how will my immune system be prevented from reacting to the transplanted cells?
  • What do the cells actually do, and is there scientific evidence that this procedure could work for my disease or condition? Where is this published?