The world is constantly bombarded these days with often-hyped stories of the latest celebrities who got unproven stem cells, including most recently Jack Nicklaus and now Tarek El Moussa of Flip or Flop TV real estate fame. Both these celebs got stem cells for orthopedic kind of health situations, but while in theory stem cells could help such conditions, the jury is really out on that. Celebrities and other public figures have a special responsibility to be extra cautious to avoid any hyping of unproven medical offerings, but unfortunately media coverage often feels like promotional even if not intended by the celebrity in question.
Why does this matter?
When a celebrity gets an unproven stem cell “treatment” and then they and/or the media make a big deal out of it in public, there is much greater risk overall to others. For every celebrity stem cell patient like Jack Nicklaus and Tarek El Moussa who gets an unproven stem cell injection at a for-profit firm, it seems likely that many regular people will follow in their footsteps. There are real health risks to these stem cell shots.
Also, most people do not have the financial resources of celebrities to drop $10,000 or $20,000 or more without big consequences, which may be practically nothing financially to a celebrity. Sometimes celebrities get free or discounted stem cells too because the clinics know the associated media will be worth a lot financially.
In Tarek El Moussa’s case, he went to social media about his stem cell “treatment” on Instagram (see screenshot image above):
“They lipo my fat out with a 12-inch needle (I asked to take all my fat, they said no) than they spin it and separate the stem cells into a liquid. They then take the liquid and inject it through an IV. Somehow…the stem cells find the injured areas of your body and begin the process of healing it at a super fast rate. I believe they put over 1,000,000 stem cells back in my body after the lipo. It’s wild seeing the technology and future of medicine….has ANYONE had stem cell injections? Is anyone familiar with it? Thank you Brent at @rockinstitute…….I AM PRAYING THIS WORKS!!! I WILL KEEP ALL MY WONDERFUL FANS UPDATED!!”
Then the media quickly swarmed around the story.
Most of the media stories did not ask even mildly probing questions or provide key context to help people understand how risky this kind of thing can be as well as the uncertain and probably low odds of success.
It appears Moussa got the fat stem cells via The Rock Institute based on his Instagram post. It’s not entirely clear, but it seems The Rock Institute has some kind of relationship with California Stem Cell Treatment Center/Cell Surgical Network, which was a focus of a recent suit seeking a permanent injunction by the FDA via the DOJ. I’m not sure how this could impact The Rock Institute.
I am highly skeptical of unproven, for-profit clinic offerings and encourage patients to do their homework, talk to their primary care physicians, asks questions of clinics, and take other steps to make the most informed decisions. Here’s my common-sense guide to thinking about stem cell treatments out there, which I would stress is not medical advice but people have found useful over the years.
Take a sober approach to this rather than following celebs on stem cells.