The Dark Side Of Stem Cell Tourism: ‘If Something Sounds Too Good To Be True, It Is’
After Jim Gass suffered a stroke in 2009, he desperately sought treatment in clinics in Argentina, China and Mexico. Instead of being cured, though, he came back with a growth on this spine that was unlike anything doctors had seen before. His story now serves as a cautionary tale against stem cell tourism. Meanwhile, KQED offers a close look at stem cell research, and a Wisconsin company hires an executive to lead its cell manufacturing.
The New York Times:
A Cautionary Tale Of ‘Stem Cell Tourism’
A growing number of clinics, often in places like Russia or China, but also in Europe and elsewhere, say on websites that they can treat, even cure, diseases like muscular dystrophy, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and spinal cord injury as well as strokes, by injecting patients with stem cells that, in theory, could develop into a missing nerve, a muscle or other cells and repair damage from an illness or an injury. Reports by injured athletes of seemingly miraculous results have contributed to a growing interest among desperate patients. Estimates are that tens of thousands of patients around the world have had such treatments and that the industry is worth hundreds of millions of dollars. ... Academic researchers say stem cells hold enormous promise, but they are proceeding cautiously with clinical trials because stem cells divide rapidly and can form tumors in laboratory animals. In lab studies, stem cells also can quickly accumulate mutations like those in cancer cells. (Kolata, 6/22)
The Boston Globe:
He Went Abroad For Stem Cell Treatment. Now He’s A Cautionary Tale.
When Jim Gass suffered a stroke in 2009, it soon was clear that standard rehabilitation would not repair the damage. Unwilling to accept life in a wheelchair, Gass decided his only option was to fly overseas for experimental stem cell treatment. At clinics in Argentina, China, and Mexico, doctors injected Gass with what they described as stem cells from several sources, including fetal tissue, in attempts to reverse his partial paralysis. Clinics tout the treatments online as cutting edge and curative. (Kowalczyk, 6/22)
Stem Cells: Where Science, Hope And Hype Meet
When stem cells burst on to the public scene 20 years ago, hand-wringing and excitement in equal measure ensued. Scientists had known about these precursors to different types of cells since the 19th century, but it wasn’t until 1998, when researchers developed a method to derive stem cells from human embryos and grow them in the laboratory, that the excitement began to build. After discovering that these cells could transform into any kind of specialized cell in the body (a quality called “pluripotent”), the research team expressed hope stem cells could be used to aid in drug discovery or replace diseased or damaged tissue. (Venton, 6/22)
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:
Cellular Dynamics Makes Hire To Prepare For Stem Cell Therapies
Cellular Dynamics International Inc., a Madison company at the forefront of making human cells that might someday be used to help cure disease, has hired an executive to lead its cell manufacturing. Derek Hei is CDI's new vice president of clinical manufacture, quality and regulatory activities, the company said. Hei was previously director of Waisman Biomanufacturing, a facility at the University of Wisconsin-Madison where he established biotherapeutics and cell therapy contract manufacturing. (Gallagher, 6/22)