In the U.S. and other places around the world, for-profit stem cell clinics are appearing in increasing numbers. In many cases clinics are promoting unproven stem cell treatments for a wide variety of medical conditions, including arthritis, autism and stroke. Anyone considering receiving a stem cell therapy from a clinic should evaluate carefully whether the procedure is FDA-approved (which means safety studies have been conducted and approved) and ask thorough questions about how results are assessed. It is also important to explore the financial implications of receiving a stem cell therapy that is not FDA-approved. Most insurance companies will not cover the cost for the initial treatment and may not cover the cost of complications that are the result of the treatment.
An excellent resource for finding clinical trials is the website ClinicalTrials.gov. ClinicalTrials.gov is maintained by the U.S. National Library of Medicine (NLM) at the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Information on ClinicalTrials.gov is provided and updated by the sponsor or principal investigator of the clinical study. ClinicalTrials.gov does not contain information about all the clinical studies conducted in the United States because not all studies are required by law to be registered (for example, observational studies and trials that do not study a drug, biologic, or device).
Other patients are an excellent resource for finding stem cell (and other) clinical trials. Groups like patientslikeme.com provide patients with a forum for information sharing about treatments, clinical trials and other issues specifically related to what you may be experiencing.
The National Stem Cell Foundation receives funding from foundations, individuals and, occasionally, government grants.
In some cases, participation in a clinical trial is covered by the research sponsor (frequently a pharmaceutical company). In most cases there will still be costs that are not covered by either insurance or a research sponsor. The principal investigator will be able to provide you with detailed information about which costs are covered. In some cases, insurance may not cover the cost of complications that are the result of the clinical trial participation.
Any stem cell therapy approved by the FDA is considered safe. The FDA makes sure medical treatments are safe and effective for people to use. FDA staff meet with researchers and perform inspections of clinical trial study sites to protect the rights of patients and to verify the quality and integrity of the data.
Clinical trials are research studies that explore whether a medical strategy, treatment or device is safe and effective for humans.
The number of diseases with proven treatments based on stem cells is still extremely small. Disorders of the blood and immune system and acquired loss of bone marrow function can, in some cases, be treated effectively with blood stem cell transplantation.
The most exciting use of stem cells relies on their ability to differentiate into a range of functioning adult cells. This ultimately means that virtually any disease that results in cellular and tissue destruction can potentially be treated by stem cells including: stroke, respiratory disease, diabetes (respectively 3, 4 and 7 on the CDC list of causes of death), neurological disorders, spinal cord injuries and some birth defects.
To continue to move the exploration of stem cells into the realm of standard treatment requires continued intensive stem cell research.
Stem cell therapy is the use of stem cells to treat or prevent a disease or condition. Bone marrow transplant is the most widely used stem cell therapy. The stem cells can be added to the blood, or transplanted into the damaged tissue directly, or even recruited from the patient’s own tissues for self-repair.
Every single part of the human body starts with a stem cell. Stem cells are defined by two properties. First, they can ‘self-renew,’ that is they can divide and give rise to more stem cells of the same kind. Second, they can mature or ‘differentiate’ into specialized cells that carry out a specific function, such as in the skin, muscle or blood. For an interactive experience, click here.
NSCF is a 501(c)3 nonprofit that funds stem cell research, patient advocacy and education. We do not treat patients and our relationships with medical facilities are limited to acting as a funding resource. We do, however, receive many inquiries from individuals seeking information. As a result, we have continued to assemble information that we believe will be helpful. For more information click here to learn more.