My Recent Lecture on Cleaning Up the Stem Cell Wild West
I live in a house that was built when Boulder, Colorado, was the Wild West. In fact, there is an oral history online from the daughter of Dr. William Duane (one of the house’s original occupants and later the father of nuclear medicine) about just how wild it was. She recants that when Duane first moved to Boulder with his new bride, he needed to close all of the curtains in the front of the house one night because, right there in downtown Boulder, they had “strung a man up”. The world of stem cells is in a similar state, an out-of-control free-for-all that, in some ways, makes the real Wild West look tame. Hence, this is a video of my recent lecture at the MedRebels conference in Austin, Texas, on this topic.
In the video I give numerous examples of problems:
- Chiropractic clinics injecting dead amniotic tissue and claiming in newspaper ads, online, and in seminars that this is a live stem cell injection capable of magically regrowing cartilage in severely degenerated joints.
- Alternative health providers, like chiropractors and acupuncturists, who are not permitted by license to inject patients with anything, circumventing the law by hiring MD or DO supervisors to “sign off.”
- Orthopedic surgeons who don’t know what they don’t know calling simple fat grafts, like Lipogems, a stem cell procedure or known dead, dehydrated, and gamma irradiated amniotic-membrane tissues a stem cell procedure. This is despite the companies involved (Lipogems and MiMedx) trying hard to educate physicians that it is not appropriate to call these tissues “stem cells.”
- Fat-based stromal vascular fraction (SVF) clinics placing patients at risk by trying procedures in patients that don’t have a reasonable animal model that would demonstrate that this type of therapy would help and be safe.
I also review a white paper by a cord-blood manufacturer and show physicians how to dig into it to figure out if it really shows that the product has mesenchymal stem cells.
The upshot? I’m not the only physician out there working hard to fight the graft and dishonesty that has become prevalent in stem cell therapy. Others have signed on to the Orthobiologics Ethic Statement. I was also proud to have the father of this field from the orthopedic-surgery standpoint (Phillipe Hernigou, MD), who spoke after I did, to get on the podium and agree that this type of physician-initiated self-regulation is critical now. In his country (France), there are now very strict controls on all types of cell therapy, even bone marrow concentrate. Hence, they don’t have an out-of-control space. Having said that, with those restrictions come severe limitations on how physicians can innovate to help their patients. Hence, he agreed that if we don’t begin cleaning up our own act here in the U.S., we won’t like what happens.