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Unregulated Stem Cell Clinics Booming In U.S. Despite Lack Of Scientific Backing

Stem cells seen on a computer screen at the University of Connecticut's Stem Cell Institute at the UConn Health Center on Aug. 27, 2010 in Farmington, Conn. (Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
Stem cells seen on a computer screen at the University of Connecticut's Stem Cell Institute at the UConn Health Center on Aug. 27, 2010 in Farmington, Conn. (Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

When it comes to the future of medicine, few therapies get people as excited as stem cells.

Researchers are looking at them for future treatment for diseases like Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, Type 1 Diabetes and more. But the key word is “future.” Progress with stem cell therapies has been slow and the few clinical trials taking place are in their infancy.

Yet despite the lack of FDA-approved treatments, stem cell clinics — which promise cures for conditions as varied as arthritis, pulmonary disorders and orthopedics — are popping up all over the country.

The clinics say they’re doing nothing wrong. But researchers call the treatments the equivalent of “snake oil,” saying at best they can waste money and at worst do permanent damage.

Dr. Paul Knoepfler of the University of California, Davis joins Here & Now‘s Robin Young to discuss this new industry, and his recently published online study about unregulated clinics in the journal Cell Stem Cell.

Guest

Paul Knoepfler, professor of cell biology at the UC Davis School of Medicine. His stem cell blog is called The Niche. He’s also author of the book “Stem Cells: An Insider’s Guide.” He tweets @pknoepfler.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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