Scientists are making progress in testing stem cells to treat a variety of diseases, but they're warning about clinics that push unproven treatments.
There are clinics "selling snake oil" all over the world, warns Sean Morrison, a stem cell expert at the University of Michigan.
The International Society for Stem Cell Research says it's concerned about aggressive marketing of treatments by clinics that may not have safeguards to ensure safety or likely benefit.
In June, the society launched a website — www.closerlookatstemcells.org — for people interested in such clinics. It has already attracted more than 10,000 hits.
The website offers background information on stem cell research and suggests questions to ask at a particular clinic, such as:
- What is the scientific evidence that this new procedure could work for my disease or condition? Where is this published?
- Is there any independent oversight or accreditation of the clinic where the treatment will be done and the facility where the cells are processed?
- What are the risks of the procedure and the possible side effects, both immediate and long-term?
The website also invites readers to submit the names of clinics, which the society will then contact for specific information as it builds a public list of facilities. The list will reveal whether these clinics provided evidence of appropriate oversight and patient protections.
At a U.S. government website — www.clinicaltrials.gov — patients and families can search for formal treatment studies all over the world that are aimed at particular diseases.