From boobs to baldness 2.0: Cosmetic stem cell clinics proliferate

A month ago I did a very widely read piece on cosmetic applications of stem cell technologies in the U.S. Many cosmetics websites asked for permission to run the piece and it was re-run in a number of languages around the world as well.

It is clear there is big interest in stem cell cosmetics. There is big money to made. I would venture to say it is in the billions with a “b”.

In just a month even more stem cell-based cosmetic clinics have come up on the radar screen.

For example, the California Stem Cell Treatment Center was brought to my attention. It was founded in 2010. You can read their mission statement here.

Their key phrase in the mission is “we provide care for people suffering from diseases that may be alleviated by access to adult stem cell based regenerative treatment.

OK, now keeping that stated goal in mind, then read this warning page on their website (underline emphasis is mine):

California Stem Cell treatment center is not offering stem cell therapy as a cure for any condition, disease, or injury. No statements or treatments on this website have been evaluated or approved by the FDA….CSCTC does not claim that any applications, or potential applications, using these autologous stem cell treatments are approved by the FDA, or are even effective. We do not claim that these treatments work for any listed nor unlisted condition, intended or implied. It’s important for potential patients to do their own research based on the options that we present so that one can make an informed decision. Any decision to participate in our patient funded experimental protocols is completely voluntary.

ATTENTION: If you have ANY concern with our autologous stem cell treatment product, methods, website, or technique and think we may be violating any U.S. law, please contact us so that we can investigate the matter or concern immediately.

The cost is not specified, but if other clinics are any guide, most like we can estimate that the costs are in the 10s of thousands.

Here is a list of conditions that this clinic is currently treating, which is surprisingly diverse.

Stem cells have great theoretical potential for many purposes including cosmetics and breast reconstruction as of the type that Ms. Somers received after treatment for cancer, but I personally would not feel comfortable receiving a still experimental treatment that lacked approval by the FDA and which did not have extensive published data supporting it. Of course being ill may make a higher degree of risk more palatable, but I encourage patients considering cosmetic stem cell procedures to talk with their primary care provider first.

5 Comments


  1. Q: When does a Beverly Hills plastic surgeon become a neurologist?
    A: When he says so.
    Q: How is this different from snake oil?
    A: It’s not.


    • A good rule of thumb for patients is that if you or a loved one has a problem in a certain area (brain, stomach, kidneys, etc), you want a specialist in that exact area to be your doctor treating you for that condition.

      So for example, for neuro issues you surely want a neurologist. For heart trouble, you want a cardiologist. For GI issues, you want a gastroenterologist. And so on.

      You don’t want a plastic surgeon to do open heart surgery on you, do you? Conversely, I wouldn’t want a cardiologist to give someone that I love a face lift. You need a plastic surgeon for that.

      Just as no one type of doctor can be a specialist in everyone, no one type of stem cell (e.g. mesenchymal stem cells; MSCs) can be a panacea either. As exciting as MSCs are, and I do believe they are tremendously powerful, it just doesn’t make sense that they could be safely and successfully used to treat dozens of diverse ailments.


  2. FDA Warns About Stem Cell Claims
    http://www.fda.gov/ForConsumers/ConsumerUpdates/ucm286155.htm

    FDA cautions consumers to make sure that any stem cell treatment they are considering has been approved by FDA or is being studied under a clinical investigation that has been submitted to and allowed to proceed by FDA.

    The FDA Advice for Consumers

    If you are considering stem cell treatment in the U.S., ask your physician if the necessary FDA approval has been obtained or if you will be part of an FDA-regulated clinical study. This also applies if the stem cells are your own. Even if the cells are yours, there are safety risks, including risks introduced when the cells are manipulated after removal.


    • A key point I think is to ask your primary care doc first because these docs tend to be non nonsense physicians who care about your health from a broad perspective. The motto “first, do no harm” is in their blood.


  3. Wonder if this is more detrimental to stem cell outcomes?

    How Corporations Corrupt Science at the Public’s Expense

    Report looks at methods of corporate abuse, suggests steps toward reform

    Federal decision makers need access to the best available science in order to craft policies that protect our health, safety, and environment.

    Unfortunately, censorship of scientists and the manipulation, distortion, and suppression of scientific information have threatened federal science in recent years.

    This problem has sparked much debate, but few have identified the key driver of political interference in federal science: the inappropriate influence of companies with a financial stake in the outcome.

    A new UCS report, Heads They Win, Tails We Lose, shows how corporations influence the use of science in federal decision making to serve their own interests.

    http://www.ucsusa.org/scientific_integrity/abuses_of_science/how-corporations-corrupt-science.html

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