October 25, 2020

The Niche

Knoepfler lab stem cell blog

Eyes of Bolshoi acid attack victim Sergei Filin treated with unproven stem cell therapy

Sergei FilinSergei Filin, the ballet master of the famed Bolshoi Ballet in Moscow, was the victim of a nasty acid attack to the face and eyes. As the case remains under investigation, Filin was reportedly treated with a high-risk, unproven stem cell treatment to the eyes using umbilical cord stem cells.

Allogeneic stem cell treatments are not proven to aid eye damage of this kind and can be rejected by the body’s immune system. A theater spokesperson said:

“A transplant of special tissues extracted from the umbilical cord of newborn babies was used on Sergei – these are young cells which should stop the action of the acid.”

As a stem cell scientist I don’t see how these stem cells would “stop the action of the acid”. I wish Filin the best, but I am concerned that this kind of media attention for an experimental stem cell treatment could lead to patients getting hurt more generally.