Stem Cell Claims

I recently returned from the America Academy of Orthopedic Surgery (AAOS) meeting in Chicago and am pleased to report a tide of interest in cartilage repair and stem cells.  There are several new cartilage repair products on the market or soon coming, and the interest of industry is keen, in fact, greater than I have ever seen it before.  Also noted was the presence of FDA representatives at the exhibits, who were apparently checking on “claims” for stem cell preparations and various “off-label” indications of bone marrow aspirate (BMA).  It is good that they should do this, because as has been stated before in this column (and also by the ISSCR (http://www.isscr.org/) stem cell organization) false and premature claims of efficacy are often used to mislead the public.  Not a week goes by that I am not asked by some patient to  put “stem cells” in their knee.  Never mind that the number of stem cells in BMA is quite low, the public is vulnerable to unproven technologies and indeed part of the vulnerability- some would say gullibility- is generated not by industry but by the public themselves.  And of course some physicians willingly cooperate, for a large fee.

IMO, if we are going to promote stem cell therapy (for anything) first we must count and measure and prove that we have stem cells to begin with. Lets start with that.   (http://www.clinicaltrials.gov/ct2/show/NCT01273337?term=stroke&rank=112) Then, we can do some studies and perhaps learn something.