Stem cell therapies have the potential to treat many conditions, but so far there’s little proof that they do. Even so, clinics around the world offer stem cell-based treatments for a host of medical problems. New research warns that some of these treatments might not be effective and can, in fact, cause harm — sometimes many years down the line.
A report in the journal CMAJ details the case of a 38-year-old man who developed a benign tumor on his spinal cord that his doctors linked to an experimental stem cell treatment he received 12 years earlier. They said his case highlights the hazards of unproven stem cell-based therapies, as well as the length of time it can take for serious problems to arise.
University of Minnesota bioethicist Leigh Turner said this case demonstrates what can happen when techniques and cells that aren’t fully understood are used to treat disease.
“If you put the wrong kinds of cells in the wrong location in the human body, there can be unwanted effects that just aren’t clear at the time,” he said. “And they aren’t necessarily picked up in preclinical research or with animal models.”
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