Beware of Bogus Macular Degeneration Stem Cell Clinics

Beware of Bogus Macular Degeneration Stem Cell Clinics

Using highly successful stem cell treatments, medical science has advanced rapidly in its quest to slow down or eradicate macular degeneration. Although it is ramping up to be one of the biggest leaps toward curing macular degeneration, stem cell applications are still in an infancy stage with varying concluded studies. 

Yet, it seems there are daily media stories claiming that science is way ahead of where it may really be at. As a result, many people diagnosed with macular degeneration and desperate to save their eyesight assume such reports are valid. Many of these people, mostly elderly, search for the nearest eyesight practitioner offering a ‘miraculous’ stem cell procedure that will give them back their vision. Some even pay exorbitant out-of-pocket fees due to lack of insurance coverage which is not including stem cell treatments at this time. 

After several hundred people were put in harm’s way from using what they thought was a reputable, professional clinic, the legal system has finally stepped in with a recent injunction against a Florida stem cell clinic with the ostentatious name of ‘US Stem Cell Inc.’. 

Find out how to beware of bogus macular degeneration stem cell clinics and what you can do to protect yourself from these irresponsible practitioners threatening optical health progress.

The Claim

Stem cells are able to be extracted from fetal tissue as well as many parts of the human body and, essentially be reprogrammed to take on healing capabilities when re-injected into a compromised location. 

Much stem cell research is being done in laboratory studies on a cellular level, rodent and currently human trials. Yet, some practitioners claim they can extract your fat cells (adipose tissue – usually around your waist) and reprogram them to fight diseases like Parkinson’s and pulmonary fibrosis as well as injecting them into joints and eyes (particularly to treat macular degeneration). Some even claim they can do this procedure as an outpatient visit right in the office. 

In a report by the Atlantic titled, ‘A Woman Went Blind After Stem Cells Were Injected in Her Eyes’ stated that, 

“The procedure was supposed to work like this: The clinic would take fat from her belly, separate out stem cells that naturally occur in fat, and inject them into her eyes to regenerate damaged tissue. The procedure cost $8,900. It had not been approved by the Food and Drug Administration and was not covered by insurance. To pay out of pocket, she had to raise money on a crowdfunding site.”

Before you believe these claims and especially friends or family recommendations, do your homework. These practitioners are showing up all over harming many people. Some of these clinics may have success but it is limited and often a long protocol of visits for injections and even peripheral recommendations such as bogus vitamin and mineral supplements. 

If It Sounds Too Good To Be True, It Probably Is

There are many reputable optical doctors capable of performing stem cell research on humans. However, these doctors would be associated with a special trial that requires a strict protocol to choose eligible candidates for the procedure. They would not be working out of an office operating room serving cappuccino in the waiting area. No matter the affiliation of the doctors in the practice you may want to employ, unless it is advertised as an FDA approved treatment or trial, chances are you will be taking your vision into your own hands. 

It is important to note that you must contact the FDA (food and drug administration) directly to determine if a trial is valid or not. You can also contact: 

  • The American Optometric Association (AOA)
  • Optician Association of America (OAA)
  • The American Board of Ophthalmology (ABO)
  • The International Society for Stem Cell research
  • The Better Business Bureau

The Bust

As reported by NBC News (and mentioned above), the Florida stem cell clinic that is now being taken to court took advantage of patients stating that, 

“Three elderly women afraid of losing their vision got suckered into paying for unproven “stem cell” treatments at a Florida clinic and went virtually blind as a result,…[they] believed, incorrectly, that they were taking part in a federally monitored clinical trial, but in fact got an unproven and barely regulated injection of their own fat and blood cells…The injections destroyed their eyes beyond repair. The three women had some blurry vision from age-related macular degeneration but ended up in far worse shape than they would have been in by doing nothing.”

It is easy to become a target of these clinics, particularly when they advertise themselves as a clinical trial. The three women, ages 72, 78, and 88 had AMD and attempted to do their due diligence by searching for the recommendation. The clinic was listed as a valid practitioner but according to Dr. Ajay Kuriyan of the Bascom Palmer Eye Institute at the University of Miami, 

“The patients paid for a procedure that had never been studied in a clinical trial, lacked sufficient safety data, and was performed in both eyes on the same day,”

Dr. George Daley, a stem cell expert and dean of Harvard Medical School commented,

“The provision of autologous cellular ‘therapies’ outside the experimental clinical trial setting — and on a for-profit basis — is a gross violation of professional and possibly legal standards; it carries the risk of worsening human health and violates the long-standing medical tradition of primum non nocere (First, do no harm).”

In defense of the clinic US Stem Cell, Inc, a statement from the organization explained that,  

“Since 2001, our clinics have successfully conducted more than 7,000 stem cell procedures with less than 0.01 percent adverse reactions reported,” 

Regardless of these assumed “successful” numbers it is important to find out all there is to know about a clinic. Any medical procedure comes with risks but in the case of US Stem Cell Inc, three women who ended up with severe vision loss is a red flag. Incidentally, the FDA wants stem cell research and procedures to continue but under strict guidelines due to these mishaps and many others that seem to be occurring daily. 

As reported by an LA Times investigation, an associate clinic of US Stem Cell called ‘Comella, “claimed [a] doctorate in “stem cell biology” was issued by the Panama College of Cell Science, a non-accredited “virtual university” offering a three-year online PhD at a bargain-basement price of $2,950 a year — $2,700 if paid in advance.”

NBC News explains how the FDA tried to help the Florida clinic comply, 

“The FDA first took legal action against the Florida-based clinics in May 2018, seeking an injunction to stop them from providing their treatments. The legal action came after several attempts by the FDA to provide the clinics the opportunity to work with the agency to come into compliance with regulations and protect patients from harm.”

Don’t become misguided into believing that a stem cell operation will miraculously save your vision. Although the research is rapidly advancing is probably best to wait until it goes mainstream. That is, unless you want to pay to be a human macular degeneration treatment guinea pig.