You can stop taking a pill or an injection treatment, but you can’t stop or retract stem cell treatments if there’s a bad side effect.
Unlike other kinds of medicines, once stem cells have been transplanted into patients, if something goes wrong you cannot stop the ‘treatment’. There’s no retraction possible because transplanted stem cells spread in the body and potentially integrate.
One of the striking things in the commercial stem cell arena in 2016 was the emergence of patient lawsuits against stem cell clinics including two proposed class action suits. These patients, and I count potentially now more than a dozen, allege a variety of harms ranging from tumors to blindness. The reason I mention this is that there appears to be huge potential for harm to patients from unapproved stem cell therapies. I know a lot of patients who would wish they could undo what the stem cell clinic did. It’s just not possible.
Even in an appropriately regulated stem cell trial context, there’s no easy way to undo stem cell transplants. There has been talk for years about suicide genes to be inserted into stem cells to provide “a net” should something go awry with stem cell treatments, but it’s not clear how well these would work and stem cell clinics aren’t interested in that anyway.
The FDA is holding a 2-day stem cell meeting starting tomorrow and it promises to be a really big deal. What’s the scoop on this meeting and the attendees?
Who is likely to say what?
If the deregulatory proponents get their way, could we have stem cell clinics like Starbucks popping up in even more neighborhoods? I have a satirical cartoon from some time ago I drew imagining such a future.
Jill Howlin’s drawings about science and policy have a unique, edgy style that packs a punch. I have invited her to weigh in here now and then with new illustrations that touch upon stem cell or other innovative biomedical matters.
Jill’s new drawing today relates to some key stem cell issues such as clinical safety, choice of stem cells, homologous use, and more. You can read my post from this week on the myth that stem cells are homologous to all tissues.
Jill tells me that she put an Irish humour spin on this cartoon.
Also see her past cartoon on Donald Trump and pay walls in science and medicine. I have also drawn some of these science political cartoons as well for the blog myself (see examples here) at times, but I think Jill has a lot more talent.
You can follow Jill on Twitter.
Hundreds or even thousands of patients are getting stem cell procedures including right here in the U.S. Many key issues remain unresolved, but clinics and doctors are giving these treatments anyway to make money. Critical issues include lack of proper informed consent, lack of strong data on risks and benefits, huge costs, and so forth.
One of the most common procedures now is the use of stem cells for the so-called “facelift” cosmetic procedures. We heard in the last World Stem Cell Summit from Dr. Allan Wu how one patient grew bone in her eye after one such procedure.
Above is my cartoon that hopefully is worth a thousand words about the dangers of these procedures.