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Visitors to the website of StemGenex, a La Jolla medical group, could be forgiven for thinking that the answer to their prayers is finally at hand. Pitched at sufferers of lung disease, Parkinson’s, autoimmune conditions such as multiple sclerosis and rheumatoid arthritis and even Alzheimer’s, the site offers treatments based on injecting patients with stem cells drawn from their own body fat.

 

StemGenex has made “great strides in the advancement of stem cell therapy,” the site says, “and is dedicated to providing patients access to safe and effective stem cell treatments.” StemGenex backs up its medical claims with brief video testimonials from patients.

 

To the stem cell research establishment, pitches like StemGenex’s warrant caution. According to the International Society for Stem Cell Research, an organization of academic and clinical stem cell researchers, patients should be wary of “clinics that use persuasive language, including patient testimonials … to market their treatments”; of “expensive treatments that have not passed successfully through clinical trials” or are “offered without regulatory approval”; and of “clinics that offer the same cell treatment for a wide variety of conditions or diseases.”

 

StemGenex’s director of media and community relations, Jamie Schubert, told me that its “principal purpose is helping people with unmet clinical needs achieve optimum health and better quality of life,” and that it has “anecdotal feedback … from our patients that their symptoms have dramatically improved and their quality of life has substantially increased.”

 

But on its website, the group disavows any claim that “treatment using autologous stem cells [that is, cells drawn from the patient’s own body] are a cure for any condition, disease, or injury. ” It acknowledges that “stem cell therapy is not FDA approved and is not a cure for any medical condition,” and that U.S. health insurance companies won’t cover the procedure, which costs $14,900.

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The Los Angeles Times

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