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Pipettes in a lab

Scientists warn against unproven stem cell treatments

Katie Roberts

International experts have called for tighter regulation of unproven stem cell treatments and how they are marketed.

What do they mean by stem cell treatments?

The term ‘stem cell treatment’ refers to any procedure that involves stem cells or their products.

There are a number of stem cell therapies being developed specifically for MS, including haematopoietic stem cell transplantation (HSCT) and mesenchymal stem cell therapy (MSCT).

But there are many others that have never been trialled in MS. And experts have found that these expensive, unproven treatments are being marketed to people with MS, despite a complete lack of clinical evidence.

Even more established stem cell procedures, like HSCT, come with significant risks and long-term side effects. We think it’s important that they’re only offered to people if there is good evidence they can help them.

Dr Sorrel Bickley, our Head of Biomedical Research, said: “Given the risks involved, we’d urge people to discuss their options with their healthcare specialist, look into whether treatments have been rigorously tested, and make sure clinics are properly accredited.”

Growing problem

The report is a response to the growing number of clinics around the world selling transplantation therapies as a potential cure for MS.

We’ve had a number of people call us about clinics offering false hope with ‘scam treatments’. It can be hard to tell what’s backed up by proper science and what are just empty promises. As one anonymous caller said “it’s very tempting if you don't have a level head.”

> Read a guide to help spot unproven treatments

Unrealistic hope

Dr Bickley also said: "We’re really concerned about unproven stem cell treatments being marketed to people with MS. They raise unrealistic hopes for people living with the condition, who may not have other treatments available to them – and that just isn’t right.

“Stem cell therapies hold a lot of promise for MS but so far only certain types have shown any benefit. We’re funding research into this in the hope of finding more – and better - treatments for everyone with MS.”

> Read the original article on the Science Translational Medicine website