If you read this blog, you know that I often write about what people send me. Recently a former patient left a comment about a new clinic in his area called “West Coast RegenMed” because they claimed to use “umbilical cord stem cells”. However, as I dug deeper, it was clear that this story was far more interesting and involved a Caribbean Medical School that recently lost critical credentials and a family medicine resident? You just can’t make this stuff up.
A Sunday Morning
I’m up in the Colorado mountains and it’s snowing outside and I honestly was having a hard time figuring out what to write about. Then a patient left a comment about a new “stem cell” clinic close to his home that purports to use “umbilical cord stem cells”. I went to the website to check it out and the deeper I got, the more bizarre it got. Let’s dig in.
West Coast RegenMed
This is a clinic in Holland Michigan. This is what greets you on the website:
“Stem Cell Therapy for Cellular Regeneration
Our patients receive the most effective, safe, and advanced regenerative stem cell therapy available. Our unique umbilical cord stem cell therapy activates the body’s own self-healing mechanisms for cellular and tissue regeneration and repair.
- Human umbilical cord blood stem cells contain mesenchymal stem cells and garner optimal regenerative results.
- Stem cell therapy is a safe option and does not require surgery. Patients recover faster and there is less potential for complications.
- Results have so far proven to far exceed the common surgery-based autologous procedures.
- There are no negative side effects of stem cell therapy when it is used appropriately. In fact, umbilical cord stem cells have been used for over thirty years to help reduce the chance of organ transplant rejection in those who did not have a matching donor.”
So is any of this demonstrably true? Not so much.
Human umbilical cord blood stem cells contain mesenchymal stem cells…
As you know from reading this blog, multiple university and private labs have now looked into the claims that the commercially available birth tissue products that would be used by West Coast RegenMed have mesenchymal stem cells (1-3). No living and functional stem cells have been found. The most recent investigation was by the CSU Translational Medicine Institute (below). These results showed that not a single one of 5 commonly used umbilical cord products had any living and functional mesenchymal stem cells:
Any claims therefore by West Coast RegenMed of it’s “stem cell” therapy being effective based on MSCs would be invalid.
Results have so far proven to far exceed the common surgery-based autologous procedures.
This is a very poorly written statement, but I think what’s being said here is that the clinical results of “umbilical cord stem cell therapy” as used by West Coast RegenMed are better than autologous procedures like bone marrow. Given that the therapy used at this clinic has no MSCs and the plates produced by CSU clearly show stem cells in middle-aged and elderly bone marrow, that claim at face value, is tenuous at best. However, when you then search the US Library of Medicine and there isn’t a single clinical trial where the commercial product that West Coast uses is compared to an autologous stem cell procedure like bone marrow, you have to scratch your head at where this statement was sourced.
There are no negative side effects of stem cell therapy when it is used appropriately.
This is an interesting statement, given that West Coast doesn’t HLA match it’s umbilical cord stem cell therapy to the patient which could be required to prevent serious side effects like Graft vs. Host Disease.
West Coast RegenMed is run by:
Ryan Bentley, MD, DC, PhD
Faculty/Physician at WMU Homer Stryker M.D. School of Medicine, Access2MD, VirtualClinic, Author, National Speaker
Wow, that sure sounds impressive. Given that I have met very few M.D./Ph.D.’s who are also chiropractors I dug deeper. Turns out Ryan graduated from a Caribbean Medical School in Montserrat called USAT, where he obtained his “M.D./Ph.D.”. This is from a Candian story that dug deeper into USAT:
“Those are diploma mills,” says George Gollin, a professor at University of Illinois who has investigated these and other medical schools which “don’t require their customers to do any meaningful academic work.”
“CBC News contacted some of the organizations USAT says have given it accreditation. “We have found that USAT is not a legally recognized degree-granting institution of higher education approved by the Ministry of Education of Montserrat,” says the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers (AACRAO)””
The school recently lost its ECFMG certification, the credentials that would allow it’s foreign graduates to sit for the USMLE test. This test determines if these graduates are qualified to attend a US Residency training program. Meaning, it seems that USAT graduates, as of this year, can no longer get a US residency slot. The school has sued the accrediting body that revoked its certification.
I tried using USAT’s website and other sources on-line to get a sense of what this medical school looks like. I was able to pull up a Satellite image from Google based on the street listed on the USAT website (there is no specific street address given) and USAT’s own description (left below). I placed a Sat image of the University of Colorado Campus (a medium-sized medical school) side by side because USAT claims to also have a Colorado address:
I then tried to find USAT’s Colorado address. I googled the address from the USAT website and the one that Google provided when I typed in “University of Science, Arts & Technology”. I either got a blank spot on a street (left) or a residential home in the suburban Denver mountains (right):
Faculty vs. Resident
This brings us to the next strange part of this story. While Ryan’s Linkedin page clearly states that he is “faculty” at the Western Michigan Medical School, the school’s page clearly shows that he is instead still in a residency training program! So what is a doctor who hasn’t yet completed training doing running a “stem cell” clinic?
Is There Any Limit to the Lack of Credentials Needed to Run a “Stem Cell” Clinic?
We’ve seen chiropractors opening fake umbilical cord “stem cell” clinics. We’ve seen chiropractors training other chiropractors on how to become stem cell experts. We’ve seen mid-levels like physician’s assistants and nurse practitioners administering investigational care. Now we have residents in training running stem cell clinics?
The upshot? While West Coast RegenMed is yet another clinic claiming to be treating patients with mesenchymal stem cells but really isn’t treating patients with MSCs, the back story is even more fascinating. You just can’t make this stuff up!
(1) Berger DR, Lyons NF, Steinmetz NJ. 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) Becktell L, Matuska A, Hon S, Delco ML, Cole B, Fortier LA. Proteomic analysis and cell viability of nine amnion-derived biologics. Orthopedic Research Society Annual Meeting, New Orleans, 2018. https://app.box.com/s/vcx7uw17gupg9ki06i57lno1tbjmzwaf
(3) Panero, A. J., Hirahara, A. M., Andersen, W. J., 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. The American Journal of Sports Medicine, 47(5), 1230–1235. https://doi.org/10.1177/0363546519829034