The Amish, Fake Stem Cells, and a Nice Old Man?

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If you read this blog you know that I get pinged with all sorts of stuff about the stem cell wild west. This story was so strange that I thought it needed to come to light. It’s about the Amish and a fake stem cell clinic that’s supervised by a very nice old man. So rather than painting the medical supervisor as the villain, I suspect that like the Amish, he’s just another mark. Let me explain.

Umbilical Cord “Stem Cells”

As you know, we and many others have tested the amniotic and umbilical cord products that are on the market and despite the claims of these companies, these products have no living and functional mesenchymal stem cells (1-4). The good news is that most of the medical community got that memo, but within the alternative healthcare community, the claim that these products have stem cells is still alive and well. Hence, this consumer scam is still going strong.

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An Email

I got a random email from a woman who is a veteran of the umbilical cord banking industry. A friend of hers had a low back condition and had asked her advice about a clinic that was performing IV infusions using umbilical cord “stem cells”. She has already referred other friends to our local Regenexx clinic as a legit place to seek help for various orthopedic conditions, but this time she had a hard time talking this guy out of going to an umbilical cord infusion clinic. So she did some homework and what astounded her was that this clinic was right in the heart of the Indiana Amish community!

To help her friend she sent some questions to the clinic and this is what she got back:

What kind of stem cells are you using – Umbilical Stem Cells…from C-Sections
Where do you get your supply of stem cells – From C-Sections so we know there is a live birth.
What is the name of the company that supplies you with your stem cells– New Life Medical Services in Lutz, FL
What is the cost to infuse – If you weigh 150 lbs or less it is $6,000; if you weigh over 150 lbs it’s $10,000. That’s not to punish heavier people (Dad, Mom and I all had to do the ‘over 150’ dose); we have to use double the number of stem cells to get the same result.
Does insurance cover any of the cost – Sadly, no it doesn’t.
Who administers the infusions – We do at our home office on days Doc is there; we have an RN who administers them and if she’s not available, my brother who is a paramedic is the alternate.”

So let’s unpack all of this…

New Life Medical Services

I have already blogged on this supplier. New Life is not a manufacturer, but instead a sales outfit (a distributor). I spoke to the President/CEO at that time and she admitted that the products she was selling likely didn’t contain any living and functional mesenchymal stem cells. In addition, the product wasn’t static. Meaning under the brand name “Restor” the company would substitute different products bought from various manufacturers. After I spoke to the CEO, New Life changed its website to get rid of references to selling products containing MSCs.

New Life Medical Services has now changed its website once again. They now call the same medical products they were selling before “Research Products”. This is now what their website says about their Wharton’s Jelly product (the one used by the Amish clinic):

What’s interesting is that now, in my opinion, the product description includes various health claims. Like that Restor+ can help regenerate tissue or that this product is the right choice for older individuals. Why is this a problem? This is not an FDA-approved or reviewed product, but one that has a simple 361 tissue registration. Hence, what you can say about the product beyond that it has Wharton’s Jelly in it and stay within that free online registration is VERY limited. So making any claims about the product’s ability to regenerate the body or that it should be used in a specific group of patients crosses a critical regulatory line in the sand. These claims alone likely make it an unapproved 351 drug product that must now go through years of clinical trials before use. Are there any clinical trials on Restor+? No. Is there any 351 drug approval? No.

New Life Training

IMHO, if New Life was skating on thin ice with its product description above, it broke through that thin ice with its course offerings:

Here we see that by offering training in spine and orthopedics injections, the company is further claiming clinical applications for its products. Again, as a tissue reseller, this is all a problem.

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Targeting the Amish

The company associated with this most recent fake stem cell scam is called Northern Nutrition. If you go to their website, it’s basically a supplement sales page. They also have a small supplement store in Shipshewana, Indiana. That makes sense, as they state above that their IV infusions take place in their “home office”. This is from the google street view right across the street from the store:

Yes, that’s an Amish horse and buggy! So Northern Nutrition is right in the heart of the Indiana Amish community.

A Nice Old Man

Oftentimes, when I write these blogs, the physicians involved with the naturopaths or chiropractors that run these clinics are painted as villains. After all, they are often paid money to “supervise” in situations where there isn’t much actual supervision going on. In addition, they have the education to know better. However, this time I think the doctor is just another mark.

The physician involved, is Calvin Streeter, DO (Wilbert C. Steeter, DO). The place with the horse and buggy in the parking lot is where he’s listed as practicing. That’s Legacy Chiropractic:

Again, that white barn in the background is Amish. I looked up Dr. Streeter’s license with the Indiana Medical board and it’s expired in some searches and active in others. Interestingly, he seems to have a few medical licenses listed, which is unusual. Two are active and one is not.

I then called “Cal” Streeter on the phone. He initially had to call me back because he was listening to his daily sermon on the radio. When we did get to speak, he was a very nice old man. When I told him about the peer-reviewed research showing that he wasn’t offering stem cell therapy, that didn’t seem to sink in. Like many octogenarians you talk to, he kept coming back to the fact that he gets his “stem cells” from this company in Florida. I must have reiterated the research showing that Wharton’s Jelly products don’t have live and functional stem cells five or six times and each time he kept bringing me back to the fact that he was using stem cells he got from Florida. Did he finally understand? Like talking to your elderly grandfather about some topic, I just wasn’t sure. “Cal” knows what he knows and he obviously wasn’t to let some young whippersnapper get in the way of what he knows.

After I hung up the phone, I felt that Dr. Steeter was more of a mark than a perp. Meaning someone had sold him a bill of goods and unlike you or me, he wasn’t able to use modern technology to test what he was told. Even the license issue was confusing. Just like many elderly do, he turned that into a very long story about some old Indiana tax that hadn’t been paid, and hence he believed his license was no longer active, but he wasn’t sure. He told this long story with such complexity and joviality that it was just hard to get mad at this old guy.

Summary

This is a story of people who are still being victimized by the fake birth tissues stem cell industry. Many of these companies have folded, but the ones that remain have retreated into the shadows. In this case, who would have thought to look in a place with white barns, white fences, and horse-drawn buggies? Who are the victims? Obviously, the Amish who are paying $10,000 per IV infusion of fake stem cells. Old “Cal” Streeter is probably more of an elderly victim than anything else.

In a way, this is brilliant. The Amish are always cash-rich (they don’t buy the latest iPhones or fancy clothes or new condos) and are also technology adverse. Hence they aren’t going to search the web to see if what they’ve been told is accurate.

In my opinion, New Life Medical Services is way over the regulatory line here by selling an unapproved drug product. In addition, in my opinion, the clinic (Notherrn Nutrition) that’s performing home IV infusions of what they’re calling “stem cells” is committing consumer fraud. Meaning that the peer-reviewed research is clear at this point, commercial Wharton’s Jelly products do not contain living and functional mesenchymal stem cells.

The upshot? I never expected to be writing about an Amish stem cell scam. In fact, at this point, I expected that all of the birth tissue companies selling fake stem cell products would be out of business. As I always say, you just can’t make this stuff up!

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References:

(1) Berger D, Lyons N, Steinmetz, N. In Vitro Evaluation of Injectable, Placental Tissue-Derived Products for Interventional Orthopedics. Interventional Orthopedics Foundation Annual Meeting. Denver, 2015. https://interventionalorthopedics.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/08/AmnioProducts-Poster.pdf

(2) Panero AJ, Hirahara AM, Andersen WJ, Rothenberg J, Fierro F. Are Amniotic Fluid Products Stem Cell Therapies? A Study of Amniotic Fluid Preparations for Mesenchymal Stem Cells With Bone Marrow Comparison. Am J Sports Med. 2019 Apr;47(5):1230-1235. doi: 10.1177/0363546519829034. Epub 2019 Mar 7. PMID: 30844295.

(3) Becktell L, Matuska A, Hon S, Delco M, Cole B, Fortier L. Proteomic analysis and cell viability of nine amnion-derived biologics. Orthopedic Research Society Annual Meeting, New Orleans, 2018. https://app.box.com/s/vcx7uw17gupg9ki06i57lno1tbjmzwaf

(4) Berger DR, Centeno CJ, Kisiday JD, McIlwraith CW, Steinmetz NJ. Colony Forming Potential and Protein Composition of Commercial Umbilical Cord Allograft Products in Comparison With Autologous Orthobiologics. Am J Sports Med. 2021 Aug 16:3635465211031275. doi: 10.1177/03635465211031275. Epub ahead of print. PMID: 34398643.

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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NOTE: This blog post provides general information to help the reader better understand regenerative medicine, musculoskeletal health, and related subjects. All content provided in this blog, website, or any linked materials, including text, graphics, images, patient profiles, outcomes, and information, are not intended and should not be considered or used as a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Please always consult with a professional and certified healthcare provider to discuss if a treatment is right for you.

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