Stem Cell Tourism: Of Promise and Peril

As a spine surgeon, I am frequently asked about the benefits of stem cell therapy by patients (and their loved ones) who suffer from spinal cord injury. India is part of a vast network of countries where “website clinics” offer stem cell therapy for such injuries. These websites publish glowing patient testimonials, and many assure patients of cure. The desperate patients and their families who are searching for hope do not know that these treatments are experimental and potentially harmful. Also, the recipient of such therapy is disqualified from participating in legitimate clinical trials in the future.

The Association of Spine Surgeons of India has published a position statement condemning such practice. They state that it is unethical to offer this experimental therapy and charge an exorbitant price for it. The ICMR in its published national guideline on Stem cell research warns that such treatment provided outside the ambit of an approved clinical trial shall be considered as malpractice.

For more information on this subject, please listen to the following panel discussion on the perils of stem cell tourism conducted at the Harvard Stem Cell Institute.

Read the brief summary of the panel discussion here.
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