The Orthopedic Stem Cell Institute vs. Insta-Tute!

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Orthopedic Stem Cell Institute

This past month I’ve seen a number of new trends that seem to fall into two categories-the amniotic stem cell bait and switch and the phenomena of a brand-new, instantly minted Orthopedic Stem Cell Institute or what I call the “Insta-tute”. I’ve already delved into the amniotic stem cell scam in depth. Today I’d like to focus on the second trend.

An institute in medicine is large medical clinic with many facets. It has a clinical research arm, usually lab research, fellows and young doctors in training, and it publishes research almost like a mini-university. There’s also usually a non-profit arm to raise money to support the parts of the institute that don’t generate money. There are some legitimate institutes out there in medicine. One that comes to mind where I’ve attended course work is the Barrow Neurologic Institute and our own National Jewish here in Denver.  However, there’s a new disturbing trend in stem cells, what I call the “Insta-tute”.

The spate of “Insta-tutes” we’re seeing have none of the above features. They have no clinical nor lab research being performed, they train no young doctors, publish no research, and have no non-profit arm. Instead, the “Insta-tute” is usually a doctor who bought a bedside centrifuge and these days may be adding in an “off the shelf” vial of “amniotic stem cells” (wink, wink – there are no stem cells in the vial). The doctor began the “insta-tute” after taking a weekend stem cell course. For marketing purposes, what was classified yesterday as a doctor’s office is classified today as an “Institute” or better said, an “Insta-tute”.

Are we an Orthopedic Stem Cell Institute? Well if anyone in the U.S. would qualify, we would likely be it. We have a clinical research arm that runs a national registry collecting data from more than 25 clinical sites, we have a university style research team and fully equipped research lab, we train fellows in Interventional Orthopedics, we publish 3-6 research papers a year on the clinical use of stem cells in orthopedics (which puts us ahead of the University of Colorado), and have a non-profit foundation. Having said that, I’ve always been reticent to call us an Institute. However, rest assured that we’re not an “Insta-tute”.

The upshot? The wacky world of stem cells never ceases to amaze me. We’re reticent to call ourselves an institute, but we now have doctors who bought a bedside machine and took a weekend course who have opened “Insta-tutes”. I think we’ll remain the Centeno-Schultz Clinic for now!

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