Do stem cells for pain make any sense?

stem-cells-for-painDoes it make any sense scientifically or medically to use stem cells for pain?

I’m skeptical in most cases today.

The whole idea of stem cells for pain has been on my mind for a number of reasons.

For one thing, more stem cell clinics are marketing unproven stem cell therapies at a high price specifically for pain relief lately.

People are even having conferences on this concept. See the email ad I got yesterday on one such conference below

Is there any FDA-approved stem cell-based treatment for pain? Even one? Nope.

In Leigh Turner’s and my paper last year on stem cell clinics, we found in our data analysis that marketing of stem cells for pain was the 2nd most common claimed condition (see Figure 2B below). Even though this indication is unproven as safe or effective, clinics charge thousands and sometimes tens of thousands of dollars per intervention for this

Circling back, does it even make any sense scientifically that stem cells could relieve pain specifically?

How could this work if it can?

stem-cells-for-painA damaged tissue such as a knee-joint, if repaired by stem cells, could be less painful.

Maybe it could.

But again RCTs have not been done to prove this approach is safe and effective for repair, let alone pain relief.

In theory stem cells might be able to repair or replace dysfunctional nerves themselves leading to less pain, but most commercial offerings in this area aren’t using the right kind of stem cells. It’s not clear to me how, for instance, adipose or bone marrow stem cells could repair nerves. They are not programmed to do this.stem-cell-treatments-pain

Repairing a damaged spine with stem cells could also lead to less pain. But how do you get the right stem cells to the right place in the spine and have them do the right thing (and not the wrong thing) to fix the spine in such a way to reduce pain? Not simple, but possible.

There are more than 300 clinical trials for stem cells at least somehow related to pain. Hopefully some of these will provide clarity on this hot topic.

8 key arguments, take-homes on day 1 of FDA stem cell meeting

Today was the first part of the FDA’s 2-day meeting on stem cell draft guidances. It was a great meeting I thought.


Screenshot from video of FDA stem cell meeting of CIRM President Randy Mills speaking.

A few consistent themes and notable things emerged as raised by participants.

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Guide to September 12-13 FDA Stem Cell Meeting: Top 10 bullet points

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?

Stem cell cartoon

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.

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Blogging today’s FDA stem cell meeting: Part 1

fda-stem-cellsThe FDA is holding its first 2016 stem cell meeting today.

How’s the meeting going?

The meeting start awfully early for us West Coast folks (5:30am) so I didn’t get to see the first few talks. Did anyone else see those and if so, what was your impression?

From the talks I have seen, this meeting is very scientifically focused so far. There has been a lot of clinical trial data presented, which for me as a scientist I really appreciate.

We’ve heard about promise, but also many challenges. One gestalt from the meeting up to this point is that there are a lot of complexities with developing and testing cellular therapies, and the utmost care must be used in this kind of clinical research. It’s not amenable to being rushed. At the same time I think it was Irv Weissman who pointed out that if we are going to see stem cell therapies help many of the patients in need within our lifetimes then there likely need to be some changes.

In the panel discussion before the lunch break, a question from the audience asked about the REGROW Act, but we didn’t hear very much from the panel about in reply that I could gather. If I heard someone on the panel correctly they referred to trying to answer that question as similar to “sticking one’s hand into a bucket of crabs”. However, a few people did indicate they have major concerns on REGROW.

I believe we are going to hear much more about policy in the afternoon session.

FDA stem cell meeting now a 2-day public event in September

FDA stem cell meetingThe FDA stem cell meeting that was supposed to take place in April is now officially going to be a 2-day event in September.

This public meeting is meant to get comments on four draft guidances related to regs on stem cell products and treatments.

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