Amniotic Fluid Stem Cells Pros and Cons: More Scams…

As I’ve blogged before, one of the most pervasive and nutty scams sweeping the nation today is doctors who are offering “amniotic stem cell therapy”. This happens because aggressive entrepreneurs are selling doctors what they claim are frozen vials of amniotic stem cells, but actually just contain dead tissue. So let’s explore the tactics of one new company while we delve into the amniotic fluid stem cells pros and cons.

Amniotic fluid comes from a baby’s birth sac and does contain a small number of stem cells. However, once that fluid is saved for a tissue bank, collected, processed, preserved, frozen, shipped, and schock thawed by a doctor, there are no viable cells, let alone stem cells. Our lab tests have confirmed this time and time again-these vials of “amniotic stem cells” are basically vials of dead tissue. Given that most of these companies selling this junk source tissue from 3-4 main national tissue banks, it’s not surprising that products from many different companies show the same lack of viability. Will this dead stuff help patients? Nobody is really sure, but it’s very clear that calling it “amniotic stem cells” is not accurate. However, if the companies hawking this “baby juice” actually told doctors that it was dead tissue, the doctors wouldn’t pay big bucks for a tiny vial. So the companies that vend these tissues have figured out that creative marketing to doctors who are frankly too uninformed to know better moves much more product than truth in advertising.

Above are messages from Linkedin to a physician friend of mine who knows of our research that this stuff is bogus. He sent these to me so I could see the aggressive sales tactics being used. I also know of these pitches first hand, as I have been on the receiving end of many of them as well. However, what makes this one special is that it’s from a fellow MD who is the company “Principal”. So let’s jump into what’s being said to the doctor:

-“cutting edge placental tissue matrix (amniotic stem cell)”

As discussed above, there is no evidence that any of these placental tissues being sold have any viable amniotic stem cells. So given that there are no living cells at all in what’s being sold, the score is “Amniotic Stem Cell Scam 0, Reality 1”.

-“…while helping their patients suffering from: 1. Joint, neck and back pain/stiffness/mobility and quality of life”

There is no data that’s been published on the dead placental tissues being sold. Searching the US National Library of Medicine” under the general term “placental tissue joint” all I find is one small study of 10 patients who were tracked for only a month. These were largely tendon injuries of the foot and ankle who reported better pain scores. Given that platelet rich plasma, which is much cheaper (half the cost or less) and has been shown in a large randomized controlled trial to be effective in tendon problems, one has to wonder why a doctor would chose a much more expensive “amniotic stem cell” treatment with limited data. The score is “Amniotic Stem Cell Scam 0, Reality 2”.

-“The stem cell revolution has arrived and is changing the face of medicine forever.”

Yes it has, but not by trying to convince doctors that frozen dead tissue in a vial is a stem cell therapy!

The upshot? It’s really disturbing to see how aggressively these companies market to physicians that they’re actually selling “amniotic stem cells”. The physicians just plain don’t know enough to question what these companies claim. Perhaps the most disturbing thing here is that this amniotic stem cell scam is not being hawked by a sales rep who used to be selling used cars at the Buick dealership last month, but by a physician who seems to be an executive in the company!

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Chris Centeno, MD is a specialist in regenerative medicine and the new field of Interventional Orthopedics. Centeno pioneered orthopedic stem cell procedures in 2005 and is responsible for a large amount of the published research on stem cell use for orthopedic applications. View Profile

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