January 18, 2021

The Niche

Trusted stem cell blog & resources

Do for-profit stem cell studies have inherent potential biases?

There’s been an interesting and diverse discussion going on here on this blog lately related to some stem cell translational things including a stem cell clinic operating in Sacramento (see 50+ comments on that post) and then more recently on a new paper from the Centeno clinic.

Over on Twitter, Leigh Turner raised the valid point that he didn’t see a conflict of interests or competing interests statement in the Centeno paper. I didn’t see one either. Most journals require such statements. In this case, such a statement would have been important because unless I missed something, one or more of the authors profited from the study itself via charging patients.

This also raises the question of whether any given for profit stem cell clinical study has inherent biases, which could even be unconscious. Why? Providers in such a context benefit if the results are encouraging and patients who pay for experimental medical therapies may have a stronger placebo effect.

On one level the same kind of bias could come into play to some extent in certain academic or biotech stem cell clinical settings too if those running the studies have potential financial interests in the outcomes.

The best way to deal with such potential factors is to have rigorous controls and for those running the studies to be aware of and disclose potential conflicts and biases as well as potentially consulting with a bioethicist.

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