Unless you’ve been living in a cave for the last twenty years, you are well aware of the potential benefits of stem cells. These amazing, undifferentiated cells can grow into just about any cell type desired in order to repair, grow and maintain missing or injured tissue. Being able to repair that which was irreparable in the past, such as central nervous tissue and retinal tissue harmed with age and trauma is a miraculous thing indeed. I see patients just about every month who mention stem cell treatment to possibly repair their vision, in particular their maculas.
The thrill of clinical trials where cost is no longer part of the equation makes being a beneficiary of stem cell therapy even more attractive for some. Let me mention a few concerns I have so a better educated approach can be had by the patient. I’ll start with one example whereby three patients who were referred to the Bascom Palmer Eye Institute in Miami, Florida (one of the preeminent eye care facilities in the world) after having both of their eyes injected with stem cells to treat age-related macular degeneration at a private clinic not participating in any formal clinical trial. Unfortunately, all had vision loss after this procedure, even after paying $5,000 each. The stem cells were administered by a nurse practitioner and there was no licensed eye doctor on site.
Concerns of substance contamination with trypsin, collagenase or other toxins most likely contributed towards the negative outcome. A big warning sign patients should look for is no association with an academic institution or no history of conducting clinical trials. I think it would be wise for a patient to evaluate any clinic administering non FDA-approved procedures to be suspicious as to how the clinic fits into the entire healthcare model versus a rogue clinic performing seemingly miraculous procedures.