Honesty in Stem Cell use

Much discussion is being held right now on a subject which pits the rights of patients to try new therapies vs. the obligation of the government to help make sure patients are not hurt or scammed. “Stem Cell Tourism”, which relies on the old con game of implying that your stem cells will cure most anything- for serious money- is a technique as old as human nature.  There are now over 500 so-called stem cell clinics in the U.S., and what troubles me the most is the plethora of various diseases that are being ‘treated”.  And this is from someone who believes that stem cells may have great utility.

As we learned from physics in the past two centuries, nature is very complex and has layers and layers of new information that yield their secrets bit by bit.  We are nowhere close to getting to the bottom of what controls cells; we only know that the elements of programming a cell are slowly revealing themselves, and they are many indeed.  A simplistic preparaton that puts stem cells in the bloodstream is unlikely to do much at all; they are present normally, and without a fee.  We will need to target, reprogram, prepare and deliver cells in the correct microenvironment, and we will need to look at each disease or condition one by one.  In the interim, the least the responsible physician can do is to be straight with patients about what we know and what we do not know, and to make every effort not to “sell” stem cell therapy at this point.  Collaborative good decision making will reduce the need for government intervention.