The Titanic & Dubious Adult Stem Cell Clinics

TitanicThe 100th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic, April 12th, is rapidly approaching and I think there are some lessons there for the stem cell field.

The Titanic was hyped as a marvel of modern technology, widely advertised as huge, unsinkable and fast. An unexpected combination….almost too good to be true.

This portrayal of the Titanic reminds me of how the hucksters of non-FDA approved adult stem cell therapies talk about their therapies.

The folks such as those recently stung on 60 Minutes including Dr. Dan Ecklund, but also many others still to this day selling “adult stem cell” therapies that are not FDA approved make claims that seem absolute and too good to be true.

They say their “stem cell”  therapies have no possibility of causing tumors and hence are completely safe.

They say their therapies cure almost any disease that might ail you and provide patient testimonials to that effect. However, in fine print on their websites or the paperwork that you sign, it says they are not claiming the therapies work and are not FDA approved.

One of the other parallels between the Titanic and dubious adult stem cell therapies is that while in both cases the technologies are indeed cool, they are under the control of fallible human beings who can and frequently do make mistakes.

Indeed, one of the realities that most scientists should learn fairly quickly in their careers is that things frequently do not go the way they expect.

This is true even in the highly controlled confines of the lab, but even more in the highly complex world of the world of medicine.

A final parallel between dubious adult stem cell therapies and the Titanic is that people can and in fact have been killed in both cases. The risks are high for biologics treatments that are not fully vetted by the FDA.

To me the Titanic is a symbol for the dubious adult stem cell therapies that offer results that are too good to be true.

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