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Old 08-17-2012, 04:59 PM   #1

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Default The promise of stem cell therapies.

Lost in translation

15 August 2012

Susan Hawes

There's a lot of hype about the potential for stem cells to revolutionise medicine, but the race to innovation shouldn't overshadow the need for robust scientific evidence there's too much at stake.

Stem cell-based therapies offer the promise of revolutionising medicine and perhaps, more wonderfully, provide new ways to treat previously untreatable diseases and ailments, from diabetes to Parkinson's disease, eye disorders or spinal cord injury.

Patients are eagerly awaiting these treatments. They've been hearing about the promise of stem cells for nearly a decade and the demand for 'stem cell cures' is high. But, like most science to technology stories, progress from basic research findings to clinical translation is painstakingly slow.

This slow, costly but structured pace is critical to ensure treatments are based upon robust science and clinical evidence efficacy. This can prove irksome to patients and innovators alike.

Though medical progress, particularly in surgical practice, can occur through innovations that bypass clinical trials, there is a fine line between being innovative with clinical therapies and being premature.

Whilst medical innovation will be necessary for clinical translation of stem cells, the hype of stem cells hides the reality, that very few cell-based therapies are yet proven with clinical trials. The largest community of stem cell researchers, the International Society for Stem Cell Research has grappled with this and responded by developing guidelines. They recommend that if the therapy is unproven, only a few patients should be treated in the first instance. They advise that clinical trials ought then be established. They also urge practitioners to publicise their data and experiences to other medical practitioners.

In this era of speed and innovation, the stem cell industry seems like a quagmire of science, scientific promise, claims based on semi-quasi scientific notions and outright fraud. Nowadays, entrepreneurs take advantage of this demand, cashing in and setting up clinics touting stem-cell cures for any type of disease.

The problem is that these clinics are a mixed bag. Some are clearly fraudulent; setting up shop in countries without regulatory control and offering to cure anything and everything. Others offer treatments compliant with regulation and good practice, but have no proven scientific basis. On what basis are their claims made? They usually cherry-pick data from animal studies, those that best suit their claims. Mostly, they use anecdotal evidence, without undertaking clinical trials.


broksaksaak is offline

Old 08-17-2012, 06:41 PM   #2

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> the race to innovation shouldn't overshadow the need for robust scientific evidence – there's too much at stake.

Bullshit. There is no "race to innovation". All that exists is roadblocks put in the way. There's far too much at stake to hold back treatments for the people who need them. Look at how much the time and cost from discovery to implementation has ballooned out of control in the 20th century.
Vikonbarius is offline

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