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Quack Clinics

Posted in Science Based Medicine by Skepdude on August 5, 2009

READ THE FULL ENTRY AT SCIENCE BASED MEDICINE

Reuters recently reported on the raid of a stem-cell clinic in Hungary. This is welcome news, if the allegations are correct, but really is only scratching the surface of this problem – clinics offering dubious stem cell therapies to desperate patients. And in fact this is only one manifestation of a far greater problem – the quack clinic. They represent a serious problem for patients, doctors, and health care regulation.

Stem Cell Clinics

There is a very disturbing trend in the last few years – the proliferation of clinics offering stem cell therapy for a variety of serious, often incurable, diseases such as spinal cord injury, ALS, Parkinson’s disease, and other neurological disorders. These clinics claim to improve and even cure these diseases by injecting stem cells into the spinal cord or other parts of the body. Treatments typically cost 20-25,000 dollars, plus travel expenses, for a single treatment.

The problem is that these clinics do not have any published evidence that their treatments are valid. There is good reason to think that they are not – stem cell technology is simply not at the point yet where we can use them to cure such diseases. There are many technical hurdles to be overcome first – knowing how to control the stem cells, to get them to survive and become the types of cells necessary to have the desired therapeutic effect, and also figuring out how to keep them from growing into tumors. Basic issues of safety have not yet been sorted out.

So in essence what these clinics are claiming is that they are years, perhaps decades, ahead of the rest of the world. And yet they have no science to show for it. They should be able to produce dozens of studies demonstrating their technology, but they can’t.

Further, they should ethically be giving such treatments as part of clinical research, to establish their safety and efficacy, but they haven’t. What little information we have comes from outside observation. For example, Bruce Dobkin published a review of cases at one Chinese stem cell clinic. He concludes:

The phenotype and the fate of the transplanted cells, described as olfactory ensheathing cells, are unknown. Perioperative morbidity and lack of functional benefit were identified as the most serious clinical shortcomings. The procedures observed did not attempt to meet international standards for either a safety or efficacy trial. In the absence of a valid clinical trials protocol, physicians should not recommend this procedure to patients.

In other words – we don’t even know what the clinic doctors are injecting into patient and what happens to the cells, if any are even present. There are risks to the procedure without any evidence of benefit. And the clinic is not following standard ethical procedures for experimental treatments.

READ THE FULL ENTRY AT SCIENCE BASED MEDICINE

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Signing of Stem Cell Executive Order and Scientific Integrity Presidential Memorandum

Posted in White House by Skepdude on March 9, 2009

I agree with my co-conspirator, Rodibidably, that generally we don’t comment on linked items, but thank God (hehe), it’s about time.

Today, with the Executive Order I am about to sign, we will bring the change that so many scientists and researchers; doctors and innovators; patients and loved ones have hoped for, and fought for, these past eight years: we will lift the ban on federal funding for promising embryonic stem cell research. We will vigorously support scientists who pursue this research. And we will aim for America to lead the world in the discoveries it one day may yield.

At this moment, the full promise of stem cell research remains unknown, and it should not be overstated. But scientists believe these tiny cells may have the potential to help us understand, and possibly cure, some of our most devastating diseases and conditions. To regenerate a severed spinal cord and lift someone from a wheelchair. To spur insulin production and spare a child from a lifetime of needles. To treat Parkinson’s, cancer, heart disease and others that affect millions of Americans and the people who love them.

But that potential will not reveal itself on its own. Medical miracles do not happen simply by accident. They result from painstaking and costly research – from years of lonely trial and error, much of which never bears fruit – and from a government willing to support that work. From life-saving vaccines, to pioneering cancer treatments, to the sequencing of the human genome – that is the story of scientific progress in America. When government fails to make these investments, opportunities are missed. Promising avenues go unexplored. Some of our best scientists leave for other countries that will sponsor their work. And those countries may surge ahead of ours in the advances that transform our lives.

But in recent years, when it comes to stem cell research, rather than furthering discovery, our government has forced what I believe is a false choice between sound science and moral values. In this case, I believe the two are not inconsistent. As a person of faith, I believe we are called to care for each other and work to ease human suffering. I believe we have been given the capacity and will to pursue this research – and the humanity and conscience to do so responsibly.

It is a difficult and delicate balance. Many thoughtful and decent people are conflicted about, or strongly oppose, this research. I understand their concerns, and we must respect their point of view.

But after much discussion, debate and reflection, the proper course has become clear. The majority of Americans – from across the political spectrum, and of all backgrounds and beliefs – have come to a consensus that we should pursue this research. That the potential it offers is great, and with proper guidelines and strict oversight, the perils can be avoided.

READ THE REST OF THIS ENTRY AT “WHITEHOUSE.GOV”

Vatican issues major new bioethics document

Posted in Uncategorized by Skepdude on December 12, 2008

VATICAN CITY – The Vatican raised its opposition to embryonic stem cell research, the morning-after pill, in vitro fertilization and human cloning to a new level Friday in a major new document on bioethics.

But in the document, the Vatican also said it approved of some forms of gene therapy and encouraged stem cell research using adult cells. And it said parents could in good conscience inoculate their children with vaccines produced with cells derived from aborted fetuses.

The Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith issued “The Dignity of a Person” to answer bioethical questions that have emerged in the two decades since its last such document was published.

With it, the Vatican has essentially confirmed in a single, authoritative instruction the opinions of the Pontifical Academy for Life, a Vatican advisory body that has debated these issues for years.

The Vatican’s overall position is formed by its belief that human life begins at conception, and must be afforded all the consequent respect and dignity from that moment on. The Vatican also holds that human life should be created through intercourse between husband and wife, not in a petri dish.

As a result, the Vatican said it opposed the morning-after pill, even if it doesn’t cause an abortion, because an abortion was “intended.” In the use of drugs such as RU-486, which causes the elimination of the embryo once it is implanted, the “sin of abortion” is committed; their use is thus “gravely immoral.”

READ THE REST OF THIS ARTICLE AT “YAHOO NEWS”