‘Stem cell’ injections!!
If it sounds too good to be true…
The new buzz words in medical marketing are ‘stem cells’ – and genuine stem cell research is a massively evolving field with huge potential. Proper stem cell research involves harvesting cells, checking their cell surface markers to identify true stem cells (which are always very sparse in number), and then culturing a line of viable stem cells in a lab – a process that is incredibly technically difficult and demanding, and that has to be done under very carefully controlled conditions in a facility licensed by the Human Tissue Authority (the HTA).
The future of medicine / surgery almost certainly does lie with the use of stem cells, in combination with other related technologies such as gene therapy and tissue engineering. However, unfortuantely we are still many years away from genuine stem cell therapies actually being available for clinical use, and currently stem cell technology is very much just experimental: most of the experimental work is still just lab-based; some reseach is being undertaken in animal models, but very little clinical research indeed has been undertaken to-do in actual people, in the real world.
Importantly, with damaged joints where there is articular cartilage loss, meniscal damage/loss, hardening of the bone (subchondral sclerosis), bone cyst formation, osteophyte (bone spur) formation, and thickening and stiffness of the joint capsule and the surrounding soft tissues, the concept of one simply being able to just inject some cells into the joint with those cells then somehow ‘regrowing tissue’ and ‘treating of reversing the arthritis’ is simply nonsenical fantasy.
Very sadly, however, there are a number of highly unscrutable clinics out there, in the UK now as well as abroad, who are marketing ‘stem cell treatments’ for the treatment of knee issues, with utterly bizarre and totally infeasble claims that their ‘treatments’ are effective at curing a massive long list of different various pathologies, with crazy claims of ridiculously high success rates. These people are nothing better than just unscrupulous dodgy magic snake oil salesmen from the old Wild West, peddling their magic pixie dust to anyone naive and/or desperate enough to listen and fall for it!
Harvesting cells (for example from bone marrow or via liposuction) is in itself a painful procedure that carries not-insignificant potential risks (e.g. infection, haematomas, ongoing pain). The cells that are gathered constitute a wide variety of difficult various cell types, and only a very tiny minority are actual ‘stem cells’ (also known as MSCs – mesenchymal stem cells or mesenchymal stromal cells, as they are sometime referred to now). These clinics claim that their treatments are ‘scientific’ and backed up by ‘research’ – the reality is that this is not true, and their ‘evidence’ consists of nothing more than false and empty marketing. The injections, however, cost thousands and thousands of pounds each!
We are aware of one patient who went to a private clinic for a ‘stem cell’ injection into her temporomandibular joint for a clicky jaw, where the injection accidentally went into an artery that went to her eye, and the ‘stem cell’ injection simply blinded her!
These treatments are not risk-free, they have no proper scientific evidence to justify their use, and we would very strongly advise you to do your reasearch first, carefully, before even going anywhere near any doctor offering these kinds of ‘treatments’.
The BBC have investigated some of these clinics, and we would strongly urge you to ready the following links:
If you’ve been missold a ‘stem cell’ treatment and if you would like to share your experiences, as a warning to try and ward off other vulnerable potential victims, then please e-mail us your stories, and we would be happy to post them (and your details will be anonymised if requested).
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