Journal Articles Highlight Risks and Benefits of Unproven Stem Cell Treatments

March 22, 2017 | Strategic Insights for Health System


Two articles published in the New England Journal of Medicine in March 2017 highlight the dangers and benefits of using unproven stem cell injections to treat age-related macular degeneration. In the first article, three elderly patients with macular degeneration experienced severe to complete vision loss (described as visual acuity ranging from 20/200 to no light perception) one year after they received intravitreal injections of adult stem cells derived from adipose tissue at a for-profit clinic in Florida as part of a clinical trial. In all three cases, one-year outcomes were "dramatically worse" than one-year outcomes that have been reported using alternative methods to treat the same condition. The second article describes a Japanese study in which a patient with macular degeneration received an injection of induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) that were converted into retinal pigment epithelium cells.

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