Scientists call for tighter regulation of stem cell treatments

Stem cells

Scientists are calling for tighter regulation of stem cell treatments, claiming clinics worldwide are offering unproven ‘therapies’ for conditions as varied as hair loss and Parkinson’s.

Researchers at the University of Reading and the Universiti Sains Malaysia have identified 114 companies in over 20 countries offering unproven, unregulated, stem-cell derived products to consumers. They are calling on regulators to halt these products until they can be proven safe and effective in clinical trials.

The findings have been published as a peer-reviewed article in the scientific journal Stem Cell Research & Therapy.

Dr Darius Widera, an Associate Professor at the University of Reading and lead author of the research, said: “Companies that sell untested and unproven health promises are little more than modern snake-oil salesmen. The vast majority of the stem cell treatments offered are not yet, and may never be, backed by research that supports therapeutic use.”

One of the latest fads in stem cell therapeutics is the use of secretomes, extracellular vesicles, and exosomes, derived from stem cells. Currently, 433 clinical trials into these therapeutics are ongoing and no state health provider has yet approved their use.

Skin care, anti-ageing, and hair loss were the most common targets for intervention, but significant numbers of clinics were also claiming to treat autism, arthritis, Parkinson’s disease, diabetes, or Lyme disease.

Dr Graeme Cottrell, a co-author of the study at the University of Reading, said: “As scientists, we can offer our evidence-based opinion on the treatments being offered, but we don’t have the power that regulators do. It is vital that regulators in all the affected countries catch up swiftly.”

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