Hundreds of clinics across the United States are marketing unapproved stem cell treatments for conditions ranging from aging skin to spinal cord injuries, a new study finds.
In an online search, researchers found at least 570 clinics offering unapproved stem cell “therapies.” They tend to be concentrated in a handful of states — including Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, New York and Texas — but are scattered across many other states, too.
Most often, the clinics market stem cell procedures for orthopedic conditions, such as arthritis and injured ligaments and tendons. This does have science behind it, but is still experimental, medical experts said.
In other cases with little or no supporting evidence, clinics hawked stem cell “facelifts” and therapies for serious conditions such as chronic lung disease, Parkinson’s disease and multiple sclerosis.
If these pricey stem cell treatments are unproven and unapproved by federal regulators, how can these clinics exist?
“I ask myself that question all the time,” said Leigh Turner, a bioethicist who worked on the study.
Turner, an associate professor at the University of Minnesota’s Center for Bioethics, said attention used to focus on “stem cell tourism” — where people travel to countries such as China, India and Mexico to get unproven treatments.
“I think there’s a misperception that everything here [in the U.S.] is regulated,” Turner said. “But these clinics are operating here, and on a relatively large scale.”