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07 July 2017


Medical experts across the world have called for tighter regulation of unscrupulous advertising that markets unproven therapies involving stem cells.

Writing in the journal Science Translational Medicine, the group has called for co-ordinated global action to tackle the problem of 'stem cell tourism'.

They have raised their concerns because hundreds of medical centres around the world offer therapies that involve transplantation of stem cells, claiming it can repair damaged tissues or even cure a condition or disease.

But Dr Sarah Chan, a Chancellor’s Fellow at the University of Edinburgh, has joined experts in warning that there is often no evidence the treatments will help or will not cause harm.

She urged tighter regulations on advertising stem cell therapies, adding that unsupported claims about potential clinical benefits should be challenged.

Dr Chan and colleagues also call for the World Health Organization to help guide responsible clinical use of cells and tissues, as it does for medicines and medicinal devices.

'Many patients feel that potential cures are being held back by red tape and lengthy approval processes,' said Dr Chan.

'Although this can be frustrating, these procedures are there to protect patients from undergoing needless treatments that could put their lives at risk. Stem cell therapies hold a lot of promise but we need rigorous clinical trials and regulatory processes to determine whether a proposed treatment is safe, effective and better than existing treatments.'

Advice about the current state of research and risks associated with unproven stem cell therapies is available from the EuroStemCell website.

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