Was recently shocked to see the number of clinics in Thailand
openly advertising Stem Cell Therapies on their websites and also at their clinics. In one location near the land department office at Nonthaburi, I counted like 17 clinics offering stem cells but all did not seem to have any doctors on duty and the staff could not tell us much except the pricings and that the nurses there were ‘authorised’ to administer the injection. There are also lots of more upper end clinics like this in Sukhumvit area and some even in hotels and in high end office building. Many claiming to be antiaging or regenerative or holistic clinics and some offering stem cells therapies for antiaging with programmes starting at Bt560,000 for a series of 6 weekly injections. When questioned for a long time, the fillipino nurses finally admitted that the stem cells were sheep stem cells! There is a lot of these scams going on ie sheep stem cells, rabbit stem cells, stem cells that have been processed (ie literally no potency whatsoever and no better than saline solutions. There are also a couple of so called American doctors practicing locally in the Sukhumvit area although they are not licensed by the local Thailand Medical Council
The problem is that the Thai
regulatory bodies and laws are laxed and as long as a Clinic is operated by a licensed Thai
doctor, the authorities do not have enough manpower to see who is actually manning these clinics and dealing with patients or the treatment protocols being offered hence you have some local Thai
doctors employing these unlicensed doctors to work for them. Coupled with the fact that in Thailand
, some of these regulatory bodies close an eye as long as there are no major complains when its members are breaking the medical
codes by offering therapies or treatment protocols that are not approved or are breaking the laws by employing unlicensed foreign doctors at their clinics. Also in Thailand
we have situations where a doctor who is actually specialized only in radiology practicing dermatology or even antiaging or regenerative medicine. To make matters worst, we have doctors who have a diploma from a certain American Board of Anti-Aging whatever! that is a programme that can be completed via long distance but is not recognized by the Thailand Medical
Council and Board and neither is it recognized in America by the American Board Of Medical
Specialities. Some of these doctors professed to be anti-aging specialists with that diploma! The only recognized anti-aging and regenerative medical
diploma programme in Thailand
is conducted by the School of Anti
and Regenerative Medicine, Mae Fah Luang University
Stem cells have tremendous promise to help us understand and treat a range of diseases, injuries and other health
-related conditions. Their potential is evident in the use of blood stem cells to treat diseases of the blood, a therapy that has saved the lives of thousands of children with leukemia; and can be seen in the use of stem cells for tissue grafts to treat diseases or injury to the bone, skin and surface of the eye. Important clinical trials involvi
ng stem cells are underway for many other conditions and researchers continue to explore new avenues using stem cells in medicine.
There is still a lot to learn about stem cells, however, and their current applications as treatments are sometimes exaggerated by the media and other parties who do not fully understand the science and current limitations, and also by “clinics” looking to capitalize on the hype by selling treatments to chronically ill or seriously injured patients. The information on this page is intended to help you understand both the potential and the limitations of stem cells at this point in time, and to help you spot some of the misinformation that is widely circulated by clinics offering unproven treatments.
Its important to note these points first before embarking on any stem cells therapies.
A) Very few stem cell treatments have been proven safe and effective
The list of diseases for which stem cells treatments have been shown to be beneficial is still very short. The best-defined and most extensively used stem cell treatment is hematopoietic (or blood) stem cells transplantation, for example, bone marrow transplantation, to treat certain blood and immune system disorders or to rebuild the blood system after treatments for some kinds of cancer
Some bone, skin and corneal (eye) injuries and diseases can be treated by grafting or implanting tissues, and the healing process relies on stem cells within this implanted tissue. These procedures are widely accepted as safe and effective by the medical
community. All other applications of stem cells are yet to be proven in clinical trials and should be considered highly experimental.
Beware of stem cell treatments offered without regulatory approval or outside the confines of a legitimate and registered clinical trial.
B) It can be dangerous when you try an unproven treatment
When there is no existing or effective treatment for a disease or condition, it is easy to understand why you may feel there is nothing to lose from trying something new, even if it isn’t proven. Unfortunately, most of the unproven stem cells treatments for sale throughout the world carry very little promise of actual benefit and very real risks:
Complications may create new short- and long-term health
problems, and/or may make your condition or symptoms more difficult to manage.
Receipt of one unproven or experimental treatment may make you ineligible for future clinical trials or treatment options
Out-of-pocket expenses could be enormous. In addition to treatment costs, there may be accommodation charges or other fees. In most cases, insurance companies and government health
programs do not cover the cost of experimental treatments
Before you decide whether to pursue an unproven or experimental treatment, carefully assess the treatment you are considering. Weigh the risks and potential benefits. Get input from your loved ones and from your healthcare team; they may provide insight you haven’t thought of.
Unproven treatments present serious health, personal and financial considerations. Consider what might be lost and discuss these risks with your family and healthcare providers.
C) Different types of stem cells serve different purposes in the body
Different types of stem cells come from different places in your body and have different functions.
Researchers are exploring the different roles tissue-specific stem cells might play in healing, with the understanding that these stem cells have specific and limited capabilities. Without manipulation in the lab, tissue-specific stem cells can only generate the other cell types found in the tissues where they live. For example, the blood-forming (hematopoietic) stem cells found in bone marrow regenerate the cells in blood, while neural stem cells in the brain make brain cells. A hematopoietic stem cell won’t spontaneously make a brain cell and vice versa. Thus, it is unlikely that a single cell type can be used to treat a multitude of unrelated diseases involving different tissues or organs.
Be wary of clinics offering treatments with stem cells originating from a part of your body unrelated to your disease or condition.
D)The same stem cell treatment is unlikely to work for different diseases or conditions
Because stem cells that are specific to certain tissues cannot make cells found in other tissues without careful manipulation in the lab, it is very unlikely that the same stem cells treatment will work for diseases affecting different tissues and organs within the body.
scientists have learned to make certain specialized cell types through a multi-step processes using pluripotent stem cells, that is embryonic stem cells or induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells. These cells have the potential to form all the different cell types in the body and offer an exciting opportunity to develop new treatment strategies. Embryonic stem cells and iPS cells, however, are not good candidates to be used directly as treatments, as they require careful instruction to become the specific cells needed to regenerate diseased or damaged tissue. If not properly directed, these stem cells may overgrow and cause tumors when injected into the patient.
View clinics that offer the same cell treatment for a wide variety of conditions or diseases with extreme caution. Be wary of claims that stem cells will somehow just know where to go and what to do to treat a specific condition.
E) The medical science behind a disease should match the medical science behind the treatment
The more you know about the causes and effects of your disease, the better armed you are to identify your best treatment options. If you have a certain type of blood cancer
, for example, transplantation with blood-forming stem cells makes sense, as the treatment requires those specific cells to do exactly what they are designed to do. If you have diabetes, receiving a blood-forming stem cells treatment doesn’t make sense, because the problem is in the pancreas rather than in the blood itself. Without significant and careful manipulation in the lab, tissue-specific stem cells do not generate cell types found outside of their home tissues.
Your best protection against clinics selling unproven stem cell treatments is an understanding of the science behind your disease, injury or condition.
F) Cells from your own body are not automatically safe when used in treatments
Typically, your immune system would not attack your own cells if they were used in a transplant. The use of a patient’s own cells is called an autologous transplant. However, the processes by which the stem cells were acquired, grown and then reintroduced into the body would carry risks. Here are just a few known risks of autologous stem cell treatments:
-When cells are removed from your body, there is a risk they may be contaminated with viruses, bacteria or other pathogens that could cause disease when reintroduced
-Manipulation of cells by a clinic may interfere with their normal function, including those that control cell growth
-How and where the cells are put back into your body matters, and some clinics inject cells into places where they are not normally present and do not belong
Every medical procedure carries risk; be wary of clinics that gloss over or minimize the risks associated with their treatments.
G) Patient testimonials and other marketing provided by clinics may be misleading
It can be hard to tell the difference between doctors conducting responsible clinical trials and clinics selling unproven treatments. One common differentiator is the way a treatment is marketed. Most specialized doctors receive patient referrals, while clinics selling stem cells treatments tend to market directly to patients, often through persuasive language on the Internet, Facebook and in newspaper advertisements.
Clinics peddling unproven stem cells treatments frequently overstate the benefits of their offerings and use patient testimonials to support their claims. These testimonials can be intentionally or unintentionally misleading. For example, a person may feel better immediately after receiving a treatment, but the perceived or actual improvement may be due to other factors, such as an intense belief that the treatment will work, auxiliary treatments accompanying the main treatment, healthy lifestyle changes adapted in conjunction with the treatment and natural fluctuations in the disease or condition. These factors are complex and difficult to measure objectively outside the boundaries of carefully designed clinical trials.
Beware of clinics that use persuasive language, including patient testimonials, on the Internet, Facebook and newspapers, to market their treatments, instead of science-based evidence.
H) An experimental treatment offered for sale is not the same as a clinical trial
The fact that a procedure is experimental does not automatically mean that it is part of a research study or clinical trial. Responsible clinical trials share several important features:
-They build upon their own preclinical data
, lab-based research on cells, tissues and animals, that indicates the treatment being tested is likely to be safe and effective
-Oversight by an independent medical
ethics committee to protect participant's rights
-Conformity to regulatory requirements, including a listing in a recognized clinical trial registry
-A structure designed to answer specific questions about a new treatment or a new way of using current treatments (results are usually compared with a control group of patients who do not receive the experimental treatment)
-The cost of the new treatment and monitoring is not covered by the participant
Responsibly-conducted clinical trials are critical to the development of new treatments
Beware of expensive treatments that have not passed successfully through clinical trials.
I) The process by which science becomes medicine is designed to minimize harm and maximize effectiveness
There is a lengthy, multi-step process involved in responsibly translating science into safe and effective medical
treatments. During this process, scientists may discover that an approach that seemed promising in the lab, does not work in animals, or that an approach that worked in animals, does not work in humans. They may discover that a treatment effectively addresses symptoms of a disease or injury in humans, but that it carries unacceptable risks. Scientists carefully review and replicate their work, and invite their peers to do the same. This process by which science becomes medicine is often long, but it is designed to minimize patient harm and to maximize the likelihood of effectiveness.
Beware of clinics that circumvent the accepted process by which science becomes medicine.
stem cells researchers are making great advances in understanding normal development, figuring out what goes wrong in disease and developing and testing potential treatments to help patients. They still have much to learn, however, about how stem cells work in the body and their capacity for healing. Safe and effective treatments for most diseases, conditions and injuries are in the future.
stem cells have been called everything from cure-alls to miracle treatments. But don’t believe the hype. Some unscrupulous providers offer stem cell products that are both unapproved and unproven. So beware of potentially dangerous procedures and confirm what’s really being offered before you consider any
But the U.S. Food and Drug
Administration is concerned that some patients seeking cures and remedies are vulnerable to stem cells treatments that are illegal and potentially harmful. And the FDA is increasing its oversight and enforcement to protect people from dishonest and unscrupulous stem cell clinics, while continuing to encourage innovation so that the medical
industry can properly harness the potential of stem cells products.
To do your part to stay safe, make sure that any stem cell treatment you are considering is either:
Being studied under an Investigational New Drug
Application (IND), which is a clinical investigation plan submitted and allowed to proceed by the FDA.
The only stem cells-based products that are FDA-approved for use in the United States consist of blood-forming stem cells (hematopoietic progenitor cells) derived from cord blood.
These products are approved for limited use in patients with disorders that affect the body system that is involved in the production of blood (called the “hematopoietic” system). These US FDA-approved stem cell products are listed on the US FDA website. Bone marrow also is used for these treatments but is generally not regulated by the FDA for this use.
Safety Concerns for Unproven Stem Cell Treatments
treatments have benefits and risks. But unproven stem cells therapies can be particularly unsafe.
For instance, attendees at a recent US FDA public workshop discussed several cases of severe adverse events. One patient became blind due to an injection of stem cells i
nto the eye. Another patient received a spinal cord injection that caused the growth of a spinal tumor.
Other potential safety concerns for unproven treatments include:
-Administration site reactions,
-The ability of stem cells to move from placement sites and change into inappropriate cell types or multiply,
-Failure of cells to work as expected, and
-The growth of tumors.
Note: Even if stem cells are your own cells, there are still safety risks such as those noted above. In addition, if cells are manipulated after removal, there is a risk of contamination of the cells.
As far as Thailand Medical
News is concerned, there is only one true source of stem cells currently from a certified and credible lab in China and they work with prestigious hospitals and research centres in Thailand
alongside properly qualified physicians who are specialized in that particular field. Also as far as Thailand Medical News
is concerned, there is only two clinics in the whole of Thailand
that are based in Bangkok that really have the right specialists to administer these stem cells and also have access to the right type of potent stem cells. Do not use stem cells from animal sources etc! Be wary of clinics employing unlicensed American, Chinese, Korean, Japanese Ukrainian Doctors or South American health
professionals in clinics in Sukhumvit, Phuket, Pattaya, Samui and Chiangmai. Report them to the authorities.
If you feel that you have been treated by an unlicensed doctor or been misled into purchasing stem cells treatments that are not approved or have been deceived, immediately report to the local police, contact the consumer protection board and also contact the Thai
MOPH and also consult a lawyer to address the issues.