Last week I posted a stem cell treatment poll.
I was curious about people’s experiences and attitudes toward non-FDA approved stem cell treatments. During my time as a stem cell scientist and educator, I have met many people, some of whom have told me about their experiences with stem cell treatments.
The results of the poll are interesting.
Out of the approximately 25 respondents, one person has had a stem cell treatment with a good outcome. I’m very happy this turned out well for you.
Another person or their family member is considering a stem cell treatment.
One third of people responding said they felt non-FDA approved stem cell treatments were too dangerous to consider.
But almost half of the votes were for “If facing a disease or condition currently untreatable by doctors, I would consider a stem cell treatment”.
This suggests to me that for a very large fraction of us, risk is very much relative. Even though stem cell treatments outside the U.S. are dangerous and do not have proven efficacy, for many people who have an untreatable condition, the risk might be worth the possible benefit.
Separate from the poll, of the people who have directly talked to me or emailed me about stem cell treatments, the most common location where they or family members received treatments was Mexico or Central America.
I am not advocating that people go to these countries or others for non-FDA approved treatments because I think such treatments are very dangerous and I would actually encourage people to consider the serious risk involved, but what this illustrates is that no matter what doctors or scientists might believe, people will consider and sometimes even get these treatments.
There are a lot of people in need of help out there for whom mainstream doctors have little to offer and who can blame them for considering all options when they are in dire need of help?
By its nature clinical and pre-clinical stem cell research progress is measured in years, but adequate funding is essential for moving the research forward as quickly as possible so that both proven safe and effective treatments are available.
In the mean time, we also need to educate everyday people about stem cell research through outreach programs. If a patient is going to travel to a stem cell treatment, I think it is our responsibility within the stem cell community to do our best to help them easily access information so that they can understand the relative risks or benefits before they get the treatment.