In recent months, some articles have been published exposing the exaggerated promises – and occasionally dangerous actions – of some stem cell clinics. These actions have led to a number of lawsuits and further government scrutiny, leaving many unsure about the true value of stem cell medicine in the context of the advancement of medical practice.
But at Americord, we want to assure you that the future of stem cell medicine, and cord blood banking, is still very bright.
What exactly have some of these stem cell clinics been doing?
Critics of stem cell clinics frequently point out that many of them charge thousands of dollars per treatment, with promises of cures for a wide range of conditions, but little evidence of actual success. While treatment for damaged joints and arthritis frequently make the news (as professional athletes often experiment with these treatments), some clinics offer treatment for Alzheimer’s, stroke, lupus, and even hair loss, often jumping the gun on and giving legitimate clinical trials for some of these conditions a bad name. These clinics often target elderly patients who have not had the desired success with other treatments and are looking for something new or different.
But aside from the fact that these treatments are costly and may not even work as intended (as trials are still ongoing to determine the best and most effective way to advance stem cell therapies), there are also potentially serious safety concerns. Many of these clinics have sourced their stem cells from labs with inconsistent safety practices that have resulted in patients being treated with contaminated products, leading to serious illness and injury.
Citing these dangers, on June 2nd a federal court ruled that the FDA has authority to regulate these clinics, opening the door to substantial and important changes in the way these applications are managed.
Does this court ruling impact Americord and other cord blood banks?
Americord is not impacted by this developing court case for two reasons.
First, our lab is already regulated by the FDA! We test all blood and tissue stored with us for disease or contamination and utilize industry-standard protocols to prevent contamination at any point in processing, storage, or release. Our standard operating procedures are always optimized and, above all, always safe.
Second, this ruling is set to impact clinics performing medical procedures. As a cord blood bank, we store stem cells and release them for use, should our clients ever need them. We do not perform treatments ourselves and have worked with exceptionally notable institutions in releasing stored samples for our clients, such as Duke University. Our efforts to innovate are focused upon extending new stem cell storage options, like placental tissue, to our clients and improving storage techniques for expanded treatment opportunities.
Are stem cell treatments safe? Is progress still being made?
We understand why one may read about these stem cell clinics and be concerned about the legitimacy or safety of other stem cell practices, but there are many safe, effective uses of stem cells. In fact, there are stem cell treatments that have been practiced for over 60 years that are still in use today! We’re talking about bone marrow transplants.
Bone marrow transplants are such a powerful medical treatment because they harness the potential of hematopoietic stem cells (HSCs) – the same type of stem cell that cord blood banks collect from cord blood! These stem cells are already FDA-approved to treat 80+ serious medical conditions, notably blood cancers like leukemias and genetic blood cell abnormalities like anemias.
But the medical and scientific community’s understanding of the full potential of these cells is constantly evolving. Earlier this year the American Society for Blood and Bone Marrow Transplantation (ASBMT) designated HSC transplant as the standard of care for treating high risk cases of the most common type of multiple sclerosis. There are other promising advanced clinical trials for conditions including cerebral palsy, autoimmune diseases like lupus and rheumatoid arthritis, organ transplantation, and even diabetes.
The stem cells in cord and placental tissue are also being explored safely in advanced clinical trials for dozens of conditions, including organ failure, brain and spinal cord injury, damage to bones and joints, and more. Despite the unnecessary risks taken by some clinics, there is a great deal of safe progress being made in thousands of clinical trials around the world.
The future of stem cell medicine
Stem cell therapies are intrinsically tied to the future of medical practice – and the future is only looking brighter and brighter! With many conditions that have resisted adequate treatment now the subject of advanced clinical trials, medical treatment in 5 years, let alone 15 or 20 years, could be much different.
At Americord, we’re committed to helping people live healthier, longer lives. We’d be happy to talk to you about the realities of stem cell medicine so you can better plan for your family’s future.