Will Speedy A4M Stem Cell Course for Docs Put Patients at Risk?

They say a little knowledge is a dangerous thing and more specifically I say that a little stem cell training for MDs, such as from A4M, can potentially be a dangerous problem too.

A4M logo
A4M logo

I’ve been very concerned about self-proclaimed “stem cell training courses” for MDs.

These kinds of courses have claimed that over as short as a weekend (perhaps with golf) they fully prepare physicians to do stem cell interventions on patients. Such stem cell-related procedures can yield big profits for physicians, but what about the best interest of patients? Are the physicians also putting their practices at risk as well?

Now I see that the American Academy of Anti-Aging Medicine (A4M) has pushed the stem cell quick clinical training model to an extreme with a new 1-day stem cell training course. 

In fact in just 10 hours A4M claims its course will make doctors qualified to start treating patients right away.

This claim is explicitly stated in the course description (emphasis mine):

“Learn how to successfully incorporate and market stem cell treatments into your practice. The latest in stem cell theory and clinical trial research for all aspects of Regenerative Medicine, including embryonic, bone marrow-derived, adipose-derived, and platelet rich plasma will be covered. Attendees will leave the clinical training course with the skill and knowledge to treat patients immediately upon returning to their offices.

It’s an astonishing claim. Note that they also emphasize marketing stem cell treatments to patients too.

Is a 10-hour course all any MD really needs to start doing stem cell transplants on patients in a safe and effective manner?

I don’t think so. At least not in a responsible, careful manner. That particular claim for this course is very troubling.

What’s next I wonder? A 1-hour online course enabling doctors to supposedly immediately start treating patients with stem cells?

Who are the people involved in running this A4M course? The faculty listed for this course are the following: Sharon McQuillan MD, David Audley MS, Arnold Caplan PhD, Rafael Gonzalez PhD, Augusto Brazzini MD, Mark Holterman MD PhD, Adeeb Al-Zoubi MD PhD, Lora Brown MD, Howard Walpole MD, Neil Riordan PhD, and Elliott Lander MD PhD.

Even if the faculty are the top stem cell experts in the entire world, in just 10 hours they could not adequately prepare newbie stem cell docs to immediately go treat patients safely.

Another concern is that the course spans a host of conditions as well and there is little if any evidence that stem cells are safe and effective today for these diseases: Parkinson’s Disease, Diabetes, Musculoskeletal Repair and Regeneration, Heart Disease, Autoimmune diseases, and erectile dysfunction.

The bottom line is that this A4M course seems to me to be all about quickly enabling doctors who are newbies to the stem cell world to make money by doing stem cell interventions. I suppose the course may also make A4M itself money too via course registration fees.

What we really need instead are comprehensive physician training programs of the kind I proposed in 2013 that span a year and thoroughly cover all the keys issues: technologies, bioethics, consent, patient rights, risks, regulatory complexities, etc.

Thorough physician training is in the best interests of the field, physicians, and patients.

7 thoughts on “Will Speedy A4M Stem Cell Course for Docs Put Patients at Risk?”

  1. Dear all,
    In my opinion, for stem cell therapy, a full team is needed that consists of basic scientist to provide the stem cells, and adjust the stem cells to the need of the patients, and many clinicians with various expertise depending the need of patients.

    Stem cells are not drugs that are ready to use every time you need, but stem cells should be prepared at the exact time when the patient needs them, so the basic scientist plays a crucial role in the treatment, and should adjust the preparedness of the stem cells according to the time it is needed. In the case of IV injection it is more simple, but if the delivery need to be given in an operating room, the the time should be compatible with the availability of the room.

    I am a MD, and PhD, but I work as basic scientist to provide the stem cells for clinicians and specialist, and for every patients we (the whole team) discuss for the preparation and all needed things to be done.

    Therefore, in my opinion, a 10 hour lecture is only to highlight and to introduce stem cell therapy to those who want to establish a team. The team itself (the clinicians) already have the expertise to deliver the stem cells, IV , intrathecal, or other routes, and need not to be trained in that field.

    As for the stem cell itself, now there are various commercial lab that can provide them, and should be incorporated in the team.

  2. Theodore – As a licensed, trained, practicing physician, you actually have a terrible conflict of interest in your judgement on this issue. Everyone wants to see patient’s benefit, but it needs to be done right. Clinical stem cell practice should require something closer to a fellowship for the MD. I would not want a surgeon trained in a weekend operating on me. There really is no room for ego in this.

  3. Jonathan Schwartz

    I take exception to the following statement in your blog: “Even if the faculty are the top stem cell experts in the entire world, in just 10 hours they could not adequately prepare newbie stem cell docs to immediately go treat patients safely.” While some of the doctors teaching the A4M course are some of the top stem cell experts in the world, some of the other ones involved are just in it to make a fast buck and don’t know anything about stem cell tchnology except how to market it. I’ve sat through all of their lectures and some of them can’t even answer basic scientific questions……….

  4. Theodore Harrison, MD MBA FACEP

    Once again Dr. Knoepfler displays to the world his complete ignorance of clinical medicine. He rants against the teaching of clinical stem cell techniques without bothering to find out what is being taught.
    Has Dr. K ever treated a patient? Let alone treated one using stem cell therapy?
    I sincerely hope not, since he has only a Ph.D. and not an M.D. degree and therefore can’t be licensed to practice medicine.
    Has Dr. K bothered to investigate this course offering to see what is actually included? If so he doesn’t bother to tell us. Apparently it’s irrelevant to his conclusion.
    At least he noted the faculty, an impressive list of MDs, PhDs, and MD PhDs. But the fact that the faculty is more qualified than he is does not give him pause. No, he tells us that even the best people in the world couldn’t adequately prepare clinicians under these circumstances.
    How does he know this since he has no clinical training or experience?
    How can he make this judgement since he doesn’t even know what is in the course?
    If an unlicensed person with no training or experience in molecular pathology came along and told Dr. K how to run his lab would he give him any credence?
    Is this the standard of research to which Dr. K holds his post docs?

    As a licensed, trained, practicing physician I am in a much better position than Dr. K to judge whether this course is adequate or not. But since I have not investigated enough to find out what the course includes I withhold judgement. I simply don’t know without all the data.

    Neither does Dr. K.

    1. Theodore, you are oversimplifying things. It would be like someone claiming that MDs know nothing about cell biology because they do not have a PhD–that equally is off base.

      I’m not an MD, but I do know quite a lot about the stem cell clinical field after years of following it and discussing it with a host of PhDs and MDs. It’s pretty obvious that one can’t get really be prepared to safely do stem cell procedures in 10 hours of training. I also have plain common sense and this claim by A4M makes no sense to me.

  5. Stem cell treatment has become a very popular all over the world, including in my country, Indonesia. In certain clinics, they give stem cells to almost every condition. However, it is not clear what do they mean by stem cells, as in some instances they only give the conditioned medium (secretome), and the patients think that they got stem cell injections.

    Many stories from patients that were told to one of my colleagues said that they got stem cell injection in one visit, without any lab checking for compatibility, and they had to pay exorbitant fee for the stem cells (if they are indeed stem cells).

    Our Government has appointed certain University based hospitals to begin with stem cell translational research, but it is restricted, and we should check for the safety and efficacy first before establishing a standardized methods and procedures. For the research, many aspect should be carefully screened, before a patient can be enrolled in the study.

    Until now there is no standardized method that can be applied for a certain disease, as every center used different methods, different kind of stem cells, different protocols to propagate or to process the stem cells, and many different, different etc.

    Therefore, in our facility, we are doing translational researches for certain diseases only, which has been published by experts abroad to have good results.

    When we have established safe and effective methods, then we can disseminate the method for other facilities. So, in the time being, in our country, legal stem cell therapy in still in the corridor of research.

    However, many facilities already offer stem cell therapies, for a very broad range of diseases, without cGMP facilities to provide the stem cells. Some of the stem cell offers are real hoaxes, as they offer encapsulated stem cells that should be swallowed, and the desperate patients just swallow the hoax. Really a matter of concern.

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