A Boston University School of Medicine report reveals there is an increasing number of clinics around the world offering stem cell-based therapies that are ineffective or have no benefit.

In an editorial released online in the Annals of the American Thoracic Society, lead author Laertis Ikonomou, PhD, assistant professor of Molecular and Translational Medicine at BUSM and member of the Center for Regenerative Medicine explained, “Remarkably, an increasing number of these clinics now operate within the United States. It is imperative that scientific and medical societies, as well as professional respiratory disease and critical care communities speak out forcefully against stem cell tourism.”

According to Ikonomou, a lead member of the American Thoracic Society’s Stem Cell Working Group, perceptions of stem cell-based therapies can be significantly different between experts and the general public, including patients. While experts evaluate therapies based on demonstrations of safety and efficacy, many patients are motivated by hope and the desperate need for a cure.

Ikonomou and colleagues say several factors exacerbate these perceptions, including aggressive and unscrupulous advertisement of unproven stem cell therapies, uncritical and overly optimistic portrayal of stem cell clinical translation in mainstream media, use of selected and uncontrolled patient testimonials to suggest benefit and reluctance of experts to speak-out against stem cell medical tourism due to fears of litigation and political backlash.

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