Unregulated stem cell clinics hit the US: 4 things to know

For years, Americans sought unregulated stem cell therapy in Mexico, the Caribbean and China. Now, these clinics are popping up across the United States, according to a recent study in the journal Cell Stem Cell.

The study's co-authors — Paul Knoepfler, PhD, stem cell scientist at the University of California Davis School of Medicine, and Leigh Turner, PhD, associate professor at the Center for Bioethics at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis — turned to the internet to find businesses engaged in direct-to-consumer marketing for stem cell procedures.

They found a surprising amount of U.S. businesses offering unregulated stem cell treatment, a practice that puts patients at risk of having stem cells form tumors and spread through the body, according to a report in The Washington Post.

Here are four things to know about the study's findings:

  1. At least 351 companies with 570 clinics across the U.S. are marketing unapproved stem cell treatments for a variety of conditions including Alzheimer's, autism and osteoarthritis.

  2. A majority of the unregulated clinics were in California (113), Florida (104) and Texas (71), while Beverly Hills, New York and San Antonio were identified as "hot spots".

  3. Almost two-thirds of the businesses offered procedures that involved stem cells from a patient's own fat, while almost half of the performed treatments used bone marrow.

  4. In a majority of cases, most clinics conduct procedures that are not clinically tested or FDA approved, and can cost patients thousands of dollars.

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