Stem cell shell game puts patients at risk

Remember that game where the slick guy on the street corner (at least in the movies) has three shells and one pea and he shuffles them around….then you are supposed to point to the shell with the pea under it?

shell gameSellers of dubious stem cell treatments are playing their own versions of “stem cell shell” and definitely it is not to benefit patients.

In the stem cell shell game, the goal is to make money off of patients.

One version is where stem cell clinics and companies have shell companies. Stem cell companies often go by a number of different names. We saw in the supermodel stem cell case that the stem cell clinic went by several names.

It is allegedly in the RNL Bio fraud case that it and its leaders used shell companies by other names.

Stem cell clinics also play an international version of stem cell shell by having presences in multiple countries.

For example they might have a presence in the U.S. to attract patients either directly or via stem cell facilitators. They might have a clinic in Europe or Asia or Latin America as a place to do the treatments. They might keep their money collected from dubious treatments in yet another country. We’ve also seen how stem cells cryopreserved in tubes can sometimes hop, skip and jump internationally…making one wonder, on which continent does one’s stem cells currently reside?

My handy adult stem cell treatment flowchart or interactome illustrates nicely in a visual way the shell network between different stem cell entities.

Another version of stem cell shell game is for one clinic to produce the stem cells only for another company, sometimes even in another country, to transplant them. Apparently the idea is to reduce liability for the people involved. It sure does not help the patients.

Sometimes the people who own such companies also themselves have a number of aliases. In the supermodel case, both she and her husband partner went by several alias themselves.

The bottom line is that this shell game is designed to make he operators money and I cannot see any benefit to patients. The gambling going on is often with patients’ lives and their families’ life savings.

3 Comments


    • Great question, Jennifer.
      Unfortunately there are few legitimate stem cell therapies in the US or even outside the US. I hope that this will be very different in say 10 years, but right now if you get a stem cell treatment besides as part of an FDA-approved clinical trial or one of the few approved treatments (e.g. bone marrow transplantation), you are putting your life and money at great risk.

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