October 20, 2020

The Niche

Knoepfler lab stem cell blog

Sports Medicine and Stem Cells: a miraculous or disastrous combo?

As the list of star athletes and other celebs that have received dubious stem cell treatments grows longer, I don’t think there is any question but that this turn of events will be the spark that drives hundreds of ordinary people to get similar treatments for themselves or for their kids who are either budding, but injured sports stars or maybe pediatric patients that have an illness that current medicine cannot really help.

Believe me I understand the need for hope, but turning to medical treatments that are unproven is like Russian Roulette.  In foreign countries, patients receiving stem cell treatments including at least two children have died.

What can we do to prevent that from happening again including here in the U.S.?

In the U.S., we can hope that the FDA/FBI continue their recent apparent trend of becoming more aggressive in their pursuit and action against the folks trying to make money off of innocent people by using the catch phrase “stem cell treatment”.

Scientists can also become more active in outreach to the public communicating that these stem cell treatments, while promising in some cases, are simply not ready for use yet.

I have put together a top 10 list of facts/advice for stem cell patients.

I wonder if we could boil it down to a pill and say “this pill might help you, most likely it’ll do nothing, and there’s a chance it is lethal”, would people then avoid the risk?

I think that years down the road that stem cells will be an important part of sports medicine, but we are not there yet in terms of the scientific proof of efficacy or safety.

As I wrote a past post, what is going on now with sports stars and stem cells is premature and dangerous. It really is like trying to win the World Series during Spring Training.

Think how badly baseball players would play without any Spring Training at all and think how many more would certainly be injured without that warm up period. Spring Training gives managers and other team leaders time to evaluate their players and collect data. Clinical and translational science also has its own kind of Spring Training for new drugs and therapies–it’s called pre-clinical and early phase Clinical Trials. We cannot skip that step without grave danger.

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