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Stem Cell Tourists Take Costa Rica Off the Agenda

timothy posted more than 4 years ago | from the honey-let's-have-another-embryo dept.

Medicine 206

An anonymous reader writes "Stem cell tourism is a booming and troubling industry, in which clinics in places like Mexico, China, and India offer rich tourists experimental stem-cell-based treatments, none of which have been approved by the FDA here in the US. (Check out some of these creepy sites that offer treatments for everything from autism to MS, and even the 'very common ailment called aging.') But in one positive development, Costa Rica just shut down its top stem cell clinic. Said the country's health minister, 'This isn't allowed in any serious country in the world.'"

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Really Now, You Can't Even Make This Stuff Up (5, Funny)

eldavojohn (898314) | more than 4 years ago | (#32514104)

That Stemaid site is a veritable goldmine for humor. Did anyone else download and scan their brochure "Yes to Human Cloning [clonaid.com] "? No? Nobody. Well, I cannot resist reproducing the first two paragraphs from the section "About the Author" (Raël of the Raëlian Foundation [wikipedia.org] ):

In 1974, I released The Book Which Tells The Truth, which described my contact with the Elohim, the extra-terrestrials who created us scientifically in their laboratories, and who were mistaken for 'God' or 'gods' by our primitive ancestors, who were too ignorant to understand the truth. At the time, it was the public's enthusiasm for the 'UFO phenomenon' that made my books and the conferences I held around the world a success.

Nevertheless, when I explained that we would soon be able to do the same thing ourselves and live forever, thanks to cloning, many laughed. However, their laughter was tinged with the empty sound of those who have always been too shortsighted to see beyond their noses and foresee the fall of their own paradigms.

Which website will you pick to clone you? I think I'm going for the one that gave me some propaganda on a religion surrounding the Elohim. Sounds like they know what they're up to. Or maybe you've got advanced AIDS (one of the many treatable conditions [stemaid.com] which conveniently have no other cures) How does it work? Well, they just shoot you up with a bunch of stem cells. No, I'm serious [stemaid.com] :

Stem Cell Therapy, SCT, is a treatment that provides stem cells in the appropriate location to assist the body where it needs to heal and regenerate its existing cells.
Depending on the conditions, stem cells can be delivered through the blood stream or directly to the organ to treat. It isn’t understood yet how stem cell communicates with the body to determine and travel to sites of need but results have been observed showing stem cells located near the damage area and dividing there generating new differentiated healthy cells.

It's a process which many leading scientists suspect might be a miracle! And you know, if it doesn't work, you just didn't present the stem cells the right conditions and we just need you to pay for a trip back and more saline ... er therapy injections. Maybe you have a supressive person in your life who has been telling you that we are a scam and that's why the stem cell therapy didn't work? Anyone else reminded of Professor Farnsworth's trip to GeneWorks S.K.G. from Three Hundred Big Boys [theinfosphere.org] ?

Re:Really Now, You Can't Even Make This Stuff Up (3, Informative)

epiphani (254981) | more than 4 years ago | (#32514176)

In 1974, I released The Book Which Tells The Truth, which described my contact with the Elohim, the extra-terrestrials who created us scientifically in their laboratories, and who were mistaken for 'God' or 'gods' by our primitive ancestors, who were too ignorant to understand the truth. At the time, it was the public's enthusiasm for the 'UFO phenomenon' that made my books and the conferences I held around the world a success.

L. Ron, is that you?

Re:Really Now, You Can't Even Make This Stuff Up (1)

bynary (827120) | more than 4 years ago | (#32514380)

Probably. I mean at least some of the stem cell tourists must be getting to their destinations via 747's, right?

Re:Really Now, You Can't Even Make This Stuff Up (2, Informative)

Wyatt Earp (1029) | more than 4 years ago | (#32515476)

Come'on now, 747s? Thats just crazy...

The 14.4 zillion people killed 4 quadrillion years ago in volcanos that just started existing 100,000 years ago were taken there in DC-8s

Re:Really Now, You Can't Even Make This Stuff Up (1)

Captain Splendid (673276) | more than 4 years ago | (#32515830)

Probably. I mean at least some of the stem cell tourists must be getting to their destinations via DC-8's, right?

FTFY

Re:Really Now, You Can't Even Make This Stuff Up (1)

Em Emalb (452530) | more than 4 years ago | (#32514182)

Which website will you pick to clone you?

Hmm, probably Hustler.

Re:Really Now, You Can't Even Make This Stuff Up (3, Informative)

CannonballHead (842625) | more than 4 years ago | (#32514268)

Elohim? Very original. That would be the Hebrew plural - or superlative, can be used both ways - for God. "El" is God, Elohim is the plural or superlative.

I wonder how much he/the at the site make.

Re:Really Now, You Can't Even Make This Stuff Up (1)

lwsimon (724555) | more than 4 years ago | (#32514838)

God self-references as "we" multiple times in Genesis.

Genesis 1:26, KJV:

And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.

I beleive that would be "Elohim" in Hebrew, though I am not really very well read in that area.

Re:Really Now, You Can't Even Make This Stuff Up (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32514542)

Well, it beats praying.

Re:Really Now, You Can't Even Make This Stuff Up (2)

interkin3tic (1469267) | more than 4 years ago | (#32514750)

It isn’t understood yet how stem cell communicates with the body to determine and travel to sites of need but results have been observed showing stem cells located near the damage area and dividing there generating new differentiated healthy cells.

I could believe that. New healthy differentiated cells. Would they repair the damage? Does pouring wet concrete onto a damaged building repair it? No, I'm guessing you need more signaling and structure. Embryos don't make their bodies by just grouping a bunch of stem cells in a roughly humanoid shape and then the cells know what to do to make arms and brains. It's complicated.

Additionally, I'd worry about the differentiated part. If you inject a mouse with induced pluripotent stem cells or embryonic stem cells you don't get good things, you get teratomas.

iPSCs injected into immunodeficient mice spontaneously formed teratomas after nine weeks. Teratomas are tumors of multiple lineages containing tissue derived from the three germ layers endoderm, mesoderm and ectoderm; this is unlike other tumors, which typically are of only one cell type. Teratoma formation is a landmark test for pluripotency. [wikipedia.org]

If you inject a mouse chest with undifferentiated stem cells, you start seeing, say, giant bony tumors forming in their lungs among other various types of tumors. The mice for those experiments are immunodeficient because injecting human stem cells into an immune healthy mouse would presumably just result in the mouse immune system eating the cells. If you have ESC (harvested from an embryo that was not you, your twin, or a clone of you) injected into your damaged spinal cord, ideally your body would recognize those aren't your cells and would destroy them, and you'd have just wasted a bunch of money, because if it doesn't, you're growing complex tumors in your central nervous system.

And we don't know how to instruct pluripotent stem cells to all turn into the right type of cell yet.

Re:Really Now, You Can't Even Make This Stuff Up (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32515300)

It's a process which many leading scientists suspect might be a miracle!

Some say giving birth is a miracle. So I guess if you can get to the babies before they are born they may still have some miracle left in them. Then if you grind them up and sprinkle them on your head it may stop the balding. Maybe that will be the miracle cure I have been looking for for my receding hairline.

Re:Really Now, You Can't Even Make This Stuff Up (1)

jeffmeden (135043) | more than 4 years ago | (#32515366)

Don't miss their claim to cure Myocardial Infarction (also known as a heart attack). The next time you have a heart attack, don't bother calling 911, just jump on the internet, order up a stem cell treatment, fly out to god-knows-where, and have them cure you right quick.

Hey, it has to be at least as effective as CPR [wikipedia.org] , right?

Re:Really Now, You Can't Even Make This Stuff Up (1)

gander666 (723553) | more than 4 years ago | (#32515622)

Rats, that is what I should have done, instead of getting this stent after my MI.

Re:Really Now, You Can't Even Make This Stuff Up (1)

zorg50 (581726) | more than 4 years ago | (#32515396)

Also from "Yes to Human Cloning [clonaid.com] " on page 87:

Soon after [the cloning of Dolly the sheep], the Pope felt obliged to proclaim himself as being against cloning. Ironically, he was unaware that by saying this he was also arguing against the resurrection of Christ, since the Elohim used cloning to resurrect Jesus (see The Message Given By Extra-Terrestrials).

Priceless.

Damn you non-refundable airline tickets! (1)

Just_Say_Duhhh (1318603) | more than 4 years ago | (#32514144)

Now what am I going to do with a round trip to Costa Rica? Botox and Liposuction? I can get that right here!

'serious country' (4, Funny)

spazdor (902907) | more than 4 years ago | (#32514166)

In other news, the health minister is no longer invited to any parties hosted by Costa Rica's total joke neighbours.

How is this a good thing? (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32514188)

Human trials before approval on people who have the money to fund it... it might be incredibly dangerous and questionable ethically but these people who get these treatments pay themselves and take all the risks. Why not study them instead of stop them?

Re:How is this a good thing? (5, Insightful)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 4 years ago | (#32514342)

The problem is not with people taking risks(well, that bothers the nanny-staters almost as much as the source of the stem cells bothers the godbots; but that isn't a big deal); but with how the sellers are representing the risks. Competent individuals choosing to take risks, or not, is freedom. Hucksters misrepresenting risks to desperate sick people is somewhere between fraud and manslaughter, depending on how it goes.

Re:How is this a good thing? (2, Insightful)

PopeRatzo (965947) | more than 4 years ago | (#32514482)

Hucksters misrepresenting risks to desperate sick people is somewhere between fraud and manslaughter, depending on how it goes.

What's the matter, you don't like the "free market"?

In a real Libertarian Utopia, we are free to defraud one another, even the most desperate and sick. Of course, Rand Paul would never give his business to anyone who would do that, because personally he finds fraud a bad thing. But he believes it would be worse for the government to interfere with a private business.

If we let the government interfere with companies that would perpetrate fraud, half the Fortune 500 would have to go out of business and the advertising industry would go dark tomorrow.

We have a lot more to fear from a corporate state than we do from a "nanny" state.

Re:How is this a good thing? (3, Interesting)

russotto (537200) | more than 4 years ago | (#32514630)

In a real Libertarian Utopia, we are free to defraud one another, even the most desperate and sick.

Eh? Says who? Fraud is on the short list of things most libertarians (aside from the anarchist variety) believe is within the legitimate realm of the state to prevent.

Of course, in the real world we live in, some people are free to defraud us all they want (because the cost of doing anything about it through the legal system is prohibitive) while others have to walk the straight and narrow (because their opponents have lawyers on retainer) and sometimes even that isn't safe.

We have a lot more to fear from a corporate state than we do from a "nanny" state.

What makes you think we can't have both? In fact, the "nanny" state follows from the "corporate" (fascist) state when insurance companies are some of the more powerful corporations.

Re:How is this a good thing? (1)

PopeRatzo (965947) | more than 4 years ago | (#32514702)

Fraud is on the short list of things most libertarians (aside from the anarchist variety) believe is within the legitimate realm of the state to prevent.

Citation, please?

In fact, the "nanny" state follows from the "corporate" (fascist) state when insurance companies are some of the more powerful corporations.

Oh, I agree. And we are a long, long way from a "nanny" state in the US. I'd like to see the insurance industry limited to liability. For health care and risk amelioration, all insurance should be non-profit.

Re:How is this a good thing? (2, Informative)

lwsimon (724555) | more than 4 years ago | (#32514994)

Citation [aynrand.org]

The only legitimate job of a securities law enforcement division is to protect investors against the specific crimes of theft, fraud, and breach of contract.

I believe Ayn Rand herself argued that taxation to fund contract enforcement is not a legitimate use of governmental force, but that the service should be provided on a percentage-of-transaction basis, and used as an optional means of generating revenue.

Also see the Heritage Foundation's Sentencing of Corporate Fraud and White Collar Crimes [heritage.org]

Re:How is this a good thing? (1, Insightful)

jeffmeden (135043) | more than 4 years ago | (#32515454)

Citation [aynrand.org]

The only legitimate job of a securities law enforcement division is to protect investors against the specific crimes of theft, fraud, and breach of contract.

I believe Ayn Rand herself argued that taxation to fund contract enforcement is not a legitimate use of governmental force, but that the service should be provided on a percentage-of-transaction basis, and used as an optional means of generating revenue.

Also see the Heritage Foundation's Sentencing of Corporate Fraud and White Collar Crimes [heritage.org]

Yeah we aren't going to tax you, we are just going to collect a fee based on the total amount of the transaction and use it for purposes pursuant to the good of the general public.

Wow Ayn Rand has done it again! She solved taxation!!!!!!!!!11oneoneoneelevntybillion

Re:How is this a good thing? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32515228)

"The organization of economic activity through voluntary exchanges presumes that we have provided, through government, for the maintenance of law and order to prevent coercion of one individual by another, the enforcement of contracts voluntarily entered into, [...]"

-Friedman

I would argue that fraud falls into the realm of enforcment of contracts. If someone sells you something they claim does X, when in fact it does not, then bring the hammer down legally. You can update your free market rant.

Re:How is this a good thing? (3, Insightful)

lgw (121541) | more than 4 years ago | (#32515242)

Most rational libertarians would agree that the government's business in business includes fraud prevention, contract enforcement, and standardization of terms and measures used in contracts - all of which can be summarazied as "make contracts work". Contracts are nearly a religion for some libertarians.

Also, I don't think "non-profit" means what you want it to mean. For example, it's ofen the "non-profit" hospitals that are the most expensive and ritzy, and least likely to extend care to the indigent.

Re:How is this a good thing? (1)

jeffmeden (135043) | more than 4 years ago | (#32515546)

Most rational libertarians would agree that the government's business in business includes fraud prevention, contract enforcement, and standardization of terms and measures used in contracts - all of which can be summarazied as "make contracts work". Contracts are nearly a religion for some libertarians.

Also, I don't think "non-profit" means what you want it to mean. For example, it's ofen the "non-profit" hospitals that are the most expensive and ritzy, and least likely to extend care to the indigent.

He said insurance companies should be nonprofit (meaning they exist just to pay the bills and manage the risk, not provide a return for investors) however this ignores the capitalist need for competition since the quest for profit is what drives an insurance company to innovate with something awesome like a default swap instead of just selling policies for houses and boring crap like that. Ahem I am getting off track.

You are thinking of "nonprofit" retirement homes, those tend to be the hardest places to get into as they are often religious, exclusive, and upscale enough to have no need for competition. Nonprofit hospitals may be more expensive and exclusive, but it's harder to hide from young sick people who don't have insurance than it is from old people who can't find the bathroom so it all kind of evens out.

Re:How is this a good thing? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32515230)

Eh? Says who? Fraud is on the short list of things most libertarians (aside from the anarchist variety) believe is within the legitimate realm of the state to prevent.

Eh? Says who? Anarchist libertarians (aside from the american pseudo-anarchist variety) are Anti-Capitalists so they're clearly anti-fraud as well, since capitalism is an elaborate fraud in itself. They don't belive that a legitimate realm for the state exists at all, though.

Re:How is this a good thing? (1)

spun (1352) | more than 4 years ago | (#32515798)

Eh? Says who? Fraud is on the short list of things most libertarians (aside from the anarchist variety) believe is within the legitimate realm of the state to prevent.

Eh? Says who? Anarchist libertarians (aside from the american pseudo-anarchist variety) are Anti-Capitalists so they're clearly anti-fraud as well, since capitalism is an elaborate fraud in itself. They don't belive that a legitimate realm for the state exists at all, though.

Eh? Says who? Anarchism means "no archons," i.e. no rulers, not "no state," which would be called anocracy. Most real anarchists, as opposed to the circle-A crusty street punk variety, understand the need for some sort of state to protect and maintain individual freedoms.

Re:How is this a good thing? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32515824)

And Libertarians would reduce the cost of lawsuits how?

Re:How is this a good thing? (1)

JesseMcDonald (536341) | more than 4 years ago | (#32515838)

Fraud is on the short list of things most libertarians (aside from the anarchist variety) believe is within the legitimate realm of the state to prevent.

Note that the anarchist libertarians (by which I assume you mean anarcho-capitalists or agorists, since the other kind have no use for contracts) are also anti-fraud; we simply don't believe that the state is required to prevent it. The basic libertarian principles/qualifications regarding property and contracts are:

  • Contracts are defined as the conditional or unconditional transfer of title over alienable property from the current owner to a new owner. This includes performance bonds ("I hereby transfer title to $1,000 to Manager if the work is not completed as of 30 days after the signing of this contract.") but not mere promises ("I will complete the work within 30 days of signing this contract."), since the latter involve one's inalienable will rather than alienable property.
  • For a contract to be valid it must be voluntary, and both/all parties must know and understand the terms ("meeting of the minds").
  • In the absence of fraud, if a competent party claims to know and understand the terms of the contract then they cannot later repudiate that claim.
  • If any party sets out to actively deceive (defraud) any other party then there is no "meeting of the minds" and the contract is void. Active deception / fraud includes any false statements or other actions taken with intent to mislead another party, but does not include simply withholding information which may benefit another party.
  • If any party threatens force against any other party then the latter's acceptance is not demonstrably voluntary and the contract is void. Force is defined as the violation of a property right, including the inalienable right to self-ownership.

So fraud, force, and threats of force by any party to the contract against any other party void the contract, at which point any property involved reverts to the original owners (retroactively). If the property is not returned, or has been altered or destroyed in the interim, then normal remedies will apply. Naturally, being the one to commit fraud or threaten force makes any resulting damage (to any party, not just the one(s) deceived) deliberate rather than accidental, justifying retribution in addition to restitution.

Re:How is this a good thing? (2, Insightful)

cephalien (529516) | more than 4 years ago | (#32514386)

Well, it's not even questionable ethically -- it's just completely unethical.

Second, we can't study them, because it would never be a properly controlled group unless you can properly account for the myriad of factors associated with such a study (type of disease, progression, lifestyle).

It's not as easy as just lumping together a dozen people who happen to have come to your 'clinic' to be injected with who knows what (preparation standards? Not in /my/ study!)

Anyone who is offering to inject stem cells into a human being at this point for treatment is a complete quack. End of story.

Re:How is this a good thing? (1)

interkin3tic (1469267) | more than 4 years ago | (#32514822)

Because the research isn't there yet. It's not a maybe, this definitely will not work, it will either do absolutely nothing (immune system rejects the cells) or will kill the patient (cells form tumors).

Charlatans (4, Informative)

al0ha (1262684) | more than 4 years ago | (#32514244)

will always take advantage of the desperate. 60 Minutes did a piece on this same topic in April about a guy living in the US who scams people the same way, a real upstanding citizen. Kudos to Costa Rica for shutting their clinic down.

http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2010/04/16/60minutes/main6402854.shtml [cbsnews.com]

Re:Charlatans (2, Informative)

LWATCDR (28044) | more than 4 years ago | (#32514382)

Or see Laetrile http://www.quackwatch.org/01QuackeryRelatedTopics/Cancer/laetrile.html [quackwatch.org]
Of course in a way you can not blame people. Imagine if you had a known terminal condition and there was nothing that could be done.
At that point the idea of what do you have to loose becomes very real.

Yep those folks are foul and yes good for you Costa Rica.

Re:Charlatans (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32515332)

Your signaure does not prevent you from being a fucking retard who can't spell lose. Even a goddamn monkey cane get this right. Stop stealing my oxygen!

Re:Charlatans (1)

LWATCDR (28044) | more than 4 years ago | (#32515672)

I will haunt you in your dreams silly boy. Not even man enough to take the karma hit little boy.
Before I am done you will lose your mind...

Re:Charlatans (1)

pslytely psycho (1699190) | more than 4 years ago | (#32515750)

Funny. The spelling Nazi is unable to spell "can". And feels so self righteous about others spelling mistakes to make foul mouthed fun of them.

You sir, have the problem of your IQ being bested by your shoe size.

Anyway, does his sig not say: All spelling and grammar errors are intentional. Grammar Nazis' need entertainment.

Re:Charlatans (1, Flamebait)

PopeRatzo (965947) | more than 4 years ago | (#32514500)

(Charlatans) will always take advantage of the desperate.

Let's not bring religion into this.

Re:Charlatans (1)

trytoguess (875793) | more than 4 years ago | (#32515836)

Cute, but comes off as bitter and silly. What pray tell does immoral stem cell treatments have to do with religion? Not to mention only a part of all religions would try to take advantage of the desperate. Your average Christian church for example will offer prayer and condolences to the terminally ill, and not ask for anything.

I wonder... (4, Interesting)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 4 years ago | (#32514280)

How many of these various offshore stem-cell shops fall into the following categories?

1. Scientists/research MDs whose interpretation of risk/reward tradeoffs differs from that of the FDA. In this category I would put more or less orthodox researchers who are of the position that the risks of stem cell use(cancer, infection, immune responses, etc.) are either just not that serious compared to the potential benefits and/or are the individual's choice to make.

2. Sincere cranks. In this category would go the various flavors of nutter who have gone straight off the deep end in terms of actual research about what stem cells are capable of, and how to make them do it; but are fully sincere in their belief that stem cells are the magic bullet against autism or aging, or whatever they are selling them as.

3. Cynical hucksters: All the research seriousness of the above; but without the slightly wild-eyed sincerity. However, they know that lying to desperate sick people is both easy and lucrative.

Re:I wonder... (1)

LWATCDR (28044) | more than 4 years ago | (#32514404)

Maybe there is no real difference between 2 and 3.
If you tell a lie enough you may start to believe it yourself.

Re:I wonder... (4, Insightful)

jittles (1613415) | more than 4 years ago | (#32514434)

A co-worker of mine just got back from a trip to Germany about a year ago to have his wife treated with stem-cells for Parkinson's research. It was insanely expensive, but it was done at a proper University type research facility and they told them up front that there was a significant possibility of it failing to do any good. The treatment seems to have failed to improve her condition, unfortunately.

It was definitely a stretch for them to be able to afford it, so I hope the researchers at least got some valuable information from it.

Re:I wonder... (1)

cephalien (529516) | more than 4 years ago | (#32514478)

I suspect the reply is as follows:

1. Nobody. No legitimate MD or PhD in the biomedical field is going to ignore the scientific consensus in such a way as to think that injecting people with untried, untested cells (that could just as easily turn into aggressive cancer) is worth it - simply and inalterably unethical.

2. Probably not, for the same reasons as #1. I guess this is 'possible', but it screams of Jenny McCarthy -- education and knowledge tend to stop people from making such gross errors in judgement.

3. Everyone. These are quacks who prey on dying people desperate for any solution, they'll suspend their own common sense in hopes of a miracle cure. I'm not a violent person, but the scum who prey on these people deserve a slow, painful death.

Re:I wonder... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32514656)

You make ridiculous assumptions about human nature without apparently having any clue about human nature. Do you pay attention to the world around you at all? Your arguments for both 1 and 2 are completely made up crap with no understanding or insight into the judgments and compromises humans can go through in pursuit of whatever they think is important. A brief history lesson would ensure the destruction that idiotic notion of yours that everybody will see the world, and therefor react to the world, the way you do.

Re:I wonder... (1)

cephalien (529516) | more than 4 years ago | (#32514978)

You'll notice I said 'legitimate'. By definition, these practices are unethical (whether or not you like it, non-FDA approved treatments such as this would be considered criminally unethical in the US) and the people who do them are not practicing legitimate science, medical or otherwise.

This is sort of related to #2, in that properly educated people don't randomly 'decide' that the available evidence is wrong and start jabbing people with dangerous treatments. If they do, we're down to #3, because they obviously know what they're doing is wrong, but the financial benefit outweighs the risk.

You sound like someone who has no idea about how medicine or science (or hell, anything) actually works, considering that your reading comprehension is basically nil.

Re:I wonder... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32515756)

You'll notice I said 'legitimate'. By definition, these practices are unethical

Sorry- I need to agree with the other AC. You are using the medical industry/FDA's definition of unethical to automatically push all non-standard treatments into group 3. I see nothing unethical (possibly illegal, but they aren't the same) in disregarding FDA procedures/rules if you disagree with them or their conclusion. Just because someone doesn't allow their actions to be ruled by the general consensus, doesn't mean they are not "legitimate" scientifically or medical.

If I (and I haven't but I wouldn't want to preclude the possibility...):
1.) did some reading
2.) had an idea
3.) bought some rats and did my own experiments

I would consider it as science, even if it isn't "legitimate" in your eyes.

Re:I wonder... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32514772)

There are lots of ppl that are in a so critical condition that would fit in the #1.

Think about someone in a wheelchair of suffering from extreme pain due to spinal damage if they would accept a treatment even if it has a chance of a cancer.

I am patiently waiting for a stem cell based treatment for spinal damage. The currently available nowadays would change me to a robot by fusing a lot of vertebraes. Pretty medieval.And my views ofthe risks is a lot different of a FDA bureaucrat

Re:I wonder... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32514728)

"2. Sincere cranks. In this category would go the various flavors of nutter who have gone straight off the deep end in terms of actual research about what stem cells are capable of, and how to make them do it; but are fully sincere in their belief that stem cells are the magic bullet against autism or aging, or whatever they are selling them as."

Not just stem cells, friend, but Space Nutters too. They sincerely believe the naive, hallucinated and unrealistic dreams of the 1960s, despite the fact we have neither the energy nor the technology to realize 0.01% of the delusions. Ever.

Re:I wonder... (1)

oldhack (1037484) | more than 4 years ago | (#32515352)

You know, things don't sort out into nice mutually exclusive groups like that. Say I'm a MD/PhD stem cell researcher with some ideas I believe has good potential, why not offer them to those who wish to try, the proceed will further my research, which requires lots of funding, including a cozy lifestyle for me, because happy me will do a better research/treatment...

Re:I wonder... (1)

Daetrin (576516) | more than 4 years ago | (#32515456)

It would be ideal if the FDA could come up with some kind of sliding scale of approval. Places that are actually doing serious work ought to be allowed to treat people as long as they're required to state the fact that the procedures are experimental and unproven up front. The FDA ought to have a fairly easy time screening out the cynical hucksters, but i expect it would be difficult to figure out who was a sincere crank or not, since that's probably a kind of sliding scale. The people who think they're learned their techniques from UFO aliens are clearly nuts (assuming they actually believe that and aren't just crooks of course) but people with more moderate revolutionary ideas (so to speak) would be hard to filter properly.

Removing freedom isn't a "positive development" (4, Insightful)

DavidinAla (639952) | more than 4 years ago | (#32514338)

Are there some charlatans out there? Of course. Are there also legitimate treatments that the U.S. FDA just doesn't recognize yet? Of course. Why is it a good thing to take away people's freedom to decide for themselves which is which? Experts are frequently wrong. If people have the money to pay for treatments -- even if some of us think they're bad ideas -- why do we have the right to tell them what they can do with their money? It's arrogant to make that decision for them.

Re:Removing freedom isn't a "positive development" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32514462)

Well, it's sort of the job of Governmental agencies like the FDA to determine if something, legitimate though it may be, is going to actually help you or make you into a long term burden on the system. Dead or indebted, incapacitated taxpayers are a benefit to no one.

Re:Removing freedom isn't a "positive development" (1)

skids (119237) | more than 4 years ago | (#32514852)

I think a happy medium would be if such agencies truly concentrated their efforts on the worst and most clear offenders, first and foremost.

Then those who were in gray areas would have time, only suffering occasional minor wrangling rather than a full onslaught, for scientific consensus to catch up.

Sometimes in pursuit of bullet points for their resumes or in response to pressure from politicians looking for a soundbite issue to campaign on, some top level administrators in regulatory agencies go off on seemingly random crusades, and in the process campaign to bend public opinion to their needs. That needs to stop.

Re:Removing freedom isn't a "positive development" (1, Insightful)

cephalien (529516) | more than 4 years ago | (#32514556)

Well, hell -- by this logic, I should be able to build a nuclear reactor in my garage. Who cares? I can just sell power to the guy next door, even if the radiation cooks my neighbors.

After all, how do we know the 'experts' are right? I think all those Hiroshima photos are faked.

The point of experts is not that they're infallible, but that collectively they represent the best current 'state of the art' in a particular field. Sometimes, yes, they're wrong. But the judgements made to come to those collective conclusions are based on data, knowledge and experience that the average person does not (and cannot) have.

Who knows, maybe injecting a paraplegic with stem cells from a fetus will make them walk again. It might, someday. But right now it's stupid, dangerous, and foolhardy in the extreme. More importantly, it's a scam, and the government should be responsible for bringing those people to justice and stopping practices which masquerade as medical science when they clearly are not.

Get a clue, and stop trying to make everything an argument about how you should be allowed to be as stupid as you personally would like to be.

Re:Removing freedom isn't a "positive development" (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32514684)

QFA. The one big difference is that Joe Scammed's stem cell treatment could not, in any way, lead to my city getting blown to bits. There's zero probability of that happening. So if Joe Scammed wants to be scammed, I say let him. Hopefully, even if the cure is a total bogus, the trip is enjoyable and the hope he gets improves his dying days. Hell, it might even work as a placebo on the smyptoms (won't get rid of cancer, but will make him feel less pain.) These things have been known to happen.

I think what the parent was saying was something like "if me being scammed doesn't hurt you, get off my lawn and let me be scammed." And I would tent to agree.

Re:Removing freedom isn't a "positive development" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32514850)

Sorry to burst your rhetorical bubble, and spoil your righteous thunder, but you just thrashed about a stawman, and tendered an untruth...

I personally DO believe that people should have the option to consume snakeoil, as long as they must also endure the consequences; Yes, I understand the social infrastructure reprocussions that such a position causes, so dont bother.
As for the FDA, they are culpable in a large number of scandals involving drug testing, and witholding of well established european medical treatments. In short, the FDA doesn NOT operate in a political or economic bubble, and treating it like it does by considering it perfectly objective is foolish to the extreme.

If dealing with snakeoil salesmen is the price to pay for circumventing big pharma, and its push for specific treamtents at the exclusion of viable alternatives, then that is a price I am willing to pay.

YMMV.

Re:Removing freedom isn't a "positive development" (1)

cephalien (529516) | more than 4 years ago | (#32514912)

Except that you aren't circumventing 'big pharma', because the treatment doesn't work!

Seriously, if these quack factories were actually curing people, don't you think that someone would know about it?

Of course, statistically, if you inject enough people with this crap one of them will go into remission, and you've got a 'cure' in the same way that occasionally someone blessed by a preacher will be 'cured' by god.

Saying that people have the right to scam other people sounds great, until your grandmother signs up for FreeCreditReport.com using your credit card.

Also, something you touch on (3, Interesting)

Sycraft-fu (314770) | more than 4 years ago | (#32515010)

There are real risks here. If you are talking something that is no risk then ok, more or less let people go to it provided they aren't misrepresenting it. However medical treatments carry risks. Even well tested, established ones carry risks. Wild, untested, nutball ones carry more risks and worse, unknown risks. With proper medicine the doctor can do two very important things:

1) Tell you what the risks are, so you can weigh them against the benefits. You can know what could happen and how likely it is to happen. You can then make an informed decision as to if it is worth it.

2) Monitor you for signs of the risks, and let you know what to look for. Many times the risks can be mitigated, so long as you are aware what to look for and deal with them.

As an example, when I was a kid I went on Acutane to treat my Acne. It is a heavy hitter medicine with rare, but serious side effects. Namely, it can shut your liver down. However, despite that, it is generally worth the risk. Reason is that the liver problems can be picked up early with a blood test, and medicine discontinued, treatment started, and you are generally fine. So while on it I had my blood taken every other week.

However, the reason they knew to do that was extensive testing and trials before it went on the market. They had a wealth of data that showed that this could result, and they had a remediation strategy ready. Still wasn't perfectly safe, but was pretty safe and I was aware of the risks. Had it been untested, well then maybe my liver would have just shut down and I'd have not known until I had frank symptoms, when it was far too late.

Medicine carries real risks at the best of times. You certainly don't want it done half-assed.

Re:Removing freedom isn't a "positive development" (2)

boneclinkz (1284458) | more than 4 years ago | (#32514576)

Experts are frequently wrong.

Other people are wrong with a much higher frequency. And being under duress (e.g. dying of a wasting disease) does a lot to further impair your decision making faculties.

Re:Removing freedom isn't a "positive development" (1)

Silly Man (15712) | more than 4 years ago | (#32514580)

because despite most people saying they want to live in a free country where they can make their own decisions...a lot of people want someone else (the government) to make decisions for themselves.

Re:Removing freedom isn't a "positive development" (1)

CannonballHead (842625) | more than 4 years ago | (#32514590)

But is it ok for me to claim that I have a proven method (just not FDA okayed) to cure cancer!!! ... and later, after you pay me a couple $100k, you find out there was no proof afterall and nobody has been cured?

It's like me selling you a bridge somewhere. I have proof that I own it. You buy it. You find out I didn't actually have what I told you I had. You would sue me. It would be fraud.

I'm not saying legit treatments should be cracked down on, but anyone claiming something - to get you to buy it - without actually having any proof of what they are claiming ... especially for things like curing cancer ... that's a problem.

Re:Removing freedom isn't a "positive development" (3, Insightful)

PopeRatzo (965947) | more than 4 years ago | (#32514644)

Are there also legitimate treatments that the U.S. FDA just doesn't recognize yet? Of course.

Can you give us some examples?

I'm not doubting you, I'm just curious which ones come to mind. I know people who have diseases for which the current treatments are not really effective or have side-effects as bad as the disease, such as Hepatitis C. They've taken responsibility for their own treatment and seem to be doing pretty well. At the same time, regular consumers, much less sick and desperate people, don't really have the ability to determine who the charlatans are. So a system like the FDA, which is obviously imperfect, is really pretty necessary. The trick is to prevent the kind of corporate interference into the regulating body that we've seen with safety in the energy industry. A two year ban on any FDA employee taking a job with a Pharma isn't nearly enough. Hell, we've got people from the pharmaceutical industry writing the regulations just like we've got employees of the oil industry or coal industry or automotive industry writing the regs that govern those industries.

Forget "church and state". We need a separation of "corporation and state". We need a much more adversarial setup in our regulatory regime.

Re:Removing freedom isn't a "positive development" (1)

John Whitley (6067) | more than 4 years ago | (#32514716)

If people have the money to pay for [XXXX] -- even if some of us think they're bad ideas -- why do we have the right to tell them what they can do with their money?

Because most societies have determined that fraud is a crime; people also have a right to make informed decisions about where they spend their money. Fraudsters deliberately misinform people in order to separate them from their money. Besides, "buyer beware" really isn't a very strong mantra for freedom.

Re:Removing freedom isn't a "positive development" (1)

Abcd1234 (188840) | more than 4 years ago | (#32514756)

Why is it a good thing to take away people's freedom to decide for themselves which is which?

People *can't* decide for themselves which is which, because they don't have the necessary education or information to do so. Which is why people still fall for chelation, homeopathy, and other charlatanism.

The free market requires equal information among all parties in order to work effectively. That is *clearly* not the case, here.

because people are desperate for life (1)

circletimessquare (444983) | more than 4 years ago | (#32515318)

and they are preying on medical ignorance to extract money from the desperate. this is criminal, clearly

it's not about freedom, it's about a scam. it is not compatible with any sense of morality to watch someone lie to people, then take their money from them based on the lies

we are not all islands in the sea with the compendium of all human knowledge at our fingertips and solid fortitude of will when faced with a mortal disease. we are weak. i am, you are. we need help. and we have help: we are communities, and we depend upon each other to look after each other

so enough with the fucking libertarian fundamentalism: when you begin defending outright scam artists, you know something about libertarianism has failed as a coherent philosophy

individual freedoms matter. also, communities matter. find the fucking balance and enough with the libertarian fundamentalism please

fundamentalism is all about taking one concept and extending it far into absurdity, in outright disregard of equally coherent, valid, and important concepts about human existence. such as COMMUNITY GOOD. another such ridiculous evil fundamentalist idiocy would be called communism: saying community good trumps all, including individual liberty. obviously, communism is stupid and evil... to the SAME MIRROR IMAGE EXTENT as libertarianism, by taking individual liberty to the opposite of ridiculous extremes and completely disregarding the EQUALLY VALID CONCEPT OF COMMUNITY GOOD

real, coherent moral philosophy is about finding a BALANCE between competing concepts: altruism and selfishness. failure comes when you ignore altruism, or you ignore selfishness. BALANCE THEM IN YOUR MIND: community good and individual liberty. that really is the truth, to a greater degree than you understand the truth, if you are a libertarian fundamentalist. wake the fuck up

i am really fucking sick of stridently loud obviously ignorant libertarian fundamentalists. they are doing genuine damage to my country and our world, just as much as damage as communism did. ENOUGH!

Re:because people are desperate for life (2, Insightful)

lgw (121541) | more than 4 years ago | (#32515452)

Libertarians are strongly anti-fraud. If there's one thing libaertarians agree on (fundamentalist or otherwise), it's the sanctity of the contract.

Community good, on the other hand, is often fraud itself. Politicians love to explain that even though this new law is bad for every individual person, it's good for "the people".

Altruism is a very silly thing indeed to base any system of government or economics on, but that's a different topic.

But then I don't know why I'm arguing with a post that looks like it was written by an 8 year old. I know your shift key works: it's not just for shouting! Start sentances with a capital letter and finish them with a period: it's for the community good.

Most of these people are cranks or con-artists (1)

JoshuaZ (1134087) | more than 4 years ago | (#32514410)

Most of these people are cranks or con-artists. Some of these stem-cell clinics are not even using actual stem cells. However, we should keep in mind that none of this is a reason to not think that stem cells will not in the future be a viable method of disease treatment. Also, while the comment in the top-post about aging is in quotation marks, in the long run, it is good to view aging as a disease. Aging is not a good thing and is the root cause of many different problems. Unfortunately, aging is not a single disease but rather caused by a variety of different things which we don't fully understand. However, regarding aging as something to be eventually cured is a productive attitude.

Re:Most of these people are cranks or con-artists (1)

k8to (9046) | more than 4 years ago | (#32514636)

Aging is not a disease. "Curing" it would be a much larger problem.

Re:Most of these people are cranks or con-artists (1)

JoshuaZ (1134087) | more than 4 years ago | (#32514834)

Why is aging not a disease? A common definition of disease is a condition that impairs bodily functions, with specific symptoms and signs. Aging fits that bill easily. Indeed, many results of aging we are already willing to label as disease. Most humans will get some form of arthritis as they get old, and that is a disease. Now, maybe you can argue that aging is a collection of diseases rather than a single disease, but that's a completely different claim. And yes, curing aging is going to be very difficult. I doubt it will be cured in 50 years, but it will happen. We've developed the medical technology to deal with many common ailments that were seen as inevitable. Child birth is not nearly as dangerous as it once was. In the developed world, yellow fever, polio, and cholera are all non-existent. Even minor things like bad eyesight can be corrected for. There's no reason not to make aging go the way of all of these.

Re:Most of these people are cranks or con-artists (1)

justinlee37 (993373) | more than 4 years ago | (#32514858)

Aging is detrimental to your health. Arguing whether or not to call it a "disease" is simple semantics.

Would you care to enlighten us as to why curing aging would be a problem? Don't say "overpopulation," because that is an entirely different disease which needs to be addressed as well.

Re:Most of these people are cranks or con-artists (1)

lgw (121541) | more than 4 years ago | (#32515360)

Death is sometimes the only thing that puts an end to accumulation of wealth and power. The ability to continue accumulating across generations through primogeniture has a well understood negative effect on society. If there were boundless new frontiers to escape to that might not be so bad, but I doubt you'll live to see us leave this planet even if you do cure aging.

Re:Most of these people are cranks or con-artists (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32514748)

I don't want to live forever, you insensitive clod! I'd rather die right now than live forever. This world isn't worth more than about 100 years (in my opinion, it's not worth 50).

Like US in 1800s (1)

MrTripps (1306469) | more than 4 years ago | (#32514520)

During the 1800s there were tons of miracle cures and tonics. Mostly, they were just over priced booze, but some could do real harm. Then the FDA came along in 1906 and put an end to most of it. The FDA (even in its weakened state) makes me laugh at those who tell horror stories about government intervention in health care.

Re:Like US in 1800s (5, Insightful)

Silly Man (15712) | more than 4 years ago | (#32514706)

Don't tell that to someone with Gastroparesis. The FDA being influenced by large drug companies (especially the manufacturer of Reglan, the approved drug in the US) won't approve the the drug that is used in EVERY other industrialized country to treat this condition, Domperidone. A big part of that reason is lobbing. And the side effects of reglan is just plan scary.

Admit-tingly, the FDA does it job in general. But it is also a poster child of political influences and represents why government intervention in health care can be bad.

Re:Like US in 1800s (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32514948)

A big part of that reason is lobbing.

Don't minimize the importance of good passing shots.

Re:Like US in 1800s (1)

dbet (1607261) | more than 4 years ago | (#32515610)

Admit-tingly, the FDA does it job in general. But it is also a poster child of political influences and represents why government intervention in health care can be bad.

No, your story doesn't represent that. What it does represent is why corporate intervention in government is bad. Besides, the health industry, who currently decides what treatments you can get and is already 100% "between doctor and patient", has a financial interest in NOT helping sick people. Government, without the legal bribery we have now, can't possibly make things worse for you. Basically, all the bureaucracy will still be there, minus the motivation to watch you die instead of approving a claim.

Re:Like US in 1800s (1)

Ungrounded Lightning (62228) | more than 4 years ago | (#32515544)

During the 1800s there were tons of miracle cures and tonics. Mostly, they were just over priced booze, but some could do real harm.

Actually a lot of them contained opiates. They could do real good, real harm, and were addicting (though somewhat less than tobacco).

Then the FDA came along in 1906 and put an end to most of it.

Actually, then came a couple of medical catastrophies:

  - A (legitimate) drug company, making one of the early (legitimate) antibiotics as a syrup, chose to use ethylene glycol as a solvent. This did a good job of suspending the drug and improved the flavor. And killed a lot of people.

  - A cosmetics company used the brand new synthetic aniline dye in an eyeliner preparation. This permanently stained the corneas of a number of teenagers, blinding them. (Thus did the FDA also get authority over cosmetics.)

The FDA (even in its weakened state) makes me laugh at those who tell horror stories about government intervention in health care.

During the debates over its creation the consensus of Congress was that, if this new agency resulted in more than a six-month delay in the introduction of useful new drugs, it would be counter-productive. Of course the incentive structure led to an excess of caution, exercise of power, and imposition of red tape. By 1998 the average time from IND filing to new drug approval was up to 7.3 years. As of 2006 the cost was estimated to be between $500 million and $2 billion. Per drug. (Ever wonder why those "breakthrough" medical news items on Slashdot never seem to lead to deployment? Slashdot's only existed since 1997 and judging by your ID you haven't been here for 7.3 years yet.)

The bureaucratic delay included rejecting research done in other countries. This delayed the approval of Thalidomide long enough to head off the "flipper baby" disaster in the US (and for its name to become so anathema that its use for the treatment of cancers, psoriasis, and autoimmune disease is stunted to this day.) But that same rejection held off the approval of Beta Blockers for avoidance of secondary heart-attacks by over a decade, prompting the Wall Street Journal to start the headline of their story on it "100,000 dead ...". (This was the conservative end of the estimate - actual cost in lives at the time was probably more like 300,000.)

The cost of approval means many promising drugs are never even researched because there's no chance that, even if approved, they could ever recover the cost. Thus "orphan drugs".

Drugs and treatments for aging - the general process rather than specific diseases that strike oldsters - will never even be considered, because the FDA considers "aging" to be a natural process rather than a disease and won't approve drugs to intervene. Even if congress forced them to change that right now, with the time-to-market resulting from their foot-dragging it's too late for the boomers and Xers.

But don't hold your breath waiting for it to be available for YOUR cohort. As early as the '80s a US official let slip (on CNN's Crossfire) that the only way to get a handle on the impending bankruptcy of Social Security was to "bring the death rate up to meet the birthrate". With the recent nationalization of much of medical care the government has an incentive to let oldsters die once they retire and consume benefits while no longer paying in. Though a "cure" or significant mitigation of aging would likely result in better health and longer working life of the general population, government officials can be expected to view it as just extending the length of feeble old age and "drains on the system". IMHO anti-aging treatments will not be developed and deployed in the US - until they are deployed elsewhere and US oldsters start kicking and screaming.

Now feel free to laugh.

What if it works? (1)

Alwin Henseler (640539) | more than 4 years ago | (#32514534)

'creepy sites' ? Perhaps, but what if it works?

As long as the people going to such clinics are willing volunteers, and understand the risks and/or unknowns, what's the problem? That they might speedup research by going ahead with human trials, before a lengthy approval process is passed? As long as those volunteers carry the biggest risk themselves, I don't care.

Any treatment should be judged on its merits IMHO, and support/funding based on real-life results, not on what politicians or critics think of it. If anything, 'serious countries' should send some researchers over to those clinics to check those results. And be happy if they're good. Because whatever you think of treatments like this, if it's new/never tried before on humans, it's relevant to see whatever happens.

Re:What if it works? (1)

fbjon (692006) | more than 4 years ago | (#32515548)

Yes, what if? Very good question. Let's find out without defrauding people, shall we?

And be happy if they're good.

I'll make a bet, that not a single one of the shady clinics show any real-life results beyond the brochures. This is an opportunity where any Joe Random can set up shop and give saline shots in exchange for bags of cash (it may or may not work!). Maybe I'm cynical, or maybe I'm just realistic.

Read the sites (1)

SmallFurryCreature (593017) | more than 4 years ago | (#32515554)

A bit of skepticism is warranted when one of the people involved claims to get his data from aliens.

Re:What if it works? (1)

dbet (1607261) | more than 4 years ago | (#32515654)

As long as the people going to such clinics are willing volunteers, and understand the risks and/or unknowns, what's the problem?

The problem is they don't understand the risks.

Also, new medical advances, techniques, and drugs have to have some basis for their claims before we allow them to be tested on humans. In "serious" countries that is :)

Alas (1)

georgewilliamherbert (211790) | more than 4 years ago | (#32514550)

The one place where stem cell treatment seems to have good scientific basis - joint repair, where stem cells are centrifuged out of fat cells and injected into the joint - is stuck in FDA human trials hell in the US.

It works great in a number of animals, and is available for dogs and horses (at least) via vets.

People? Nope. Go fish.

Re:Alas (1)

cephalien (529516) | more than 4 years ago | (#32514614)

I don't mean this in a harsh way, but you have no idea how clinical trials work.

Saying something works in a dog, or a horse, or a pig, or a hamster is a thousand-fold difference from testing it in humans. We can test it on ten thousand mice and show no ill effects, but doing a proper multi-stage trial on humans can take years and years of testing, evaluation and follow-up.

Why? So we don't have any more thalidomide babies. And even then, the trials aren't perfect. Remember Vioxx? That's just one example.

There's a lot of good medicine coming around the corner in the next decade, but it's based on new and largely untried technologies. I'd love to save all the people who will die before it's available (or who will suffer pain, etc), but we can't rush it. The risks are too great.

Re:Alas (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32514916)

the risks should be wheighted by the risk-taker

Re:Alas (1)

cephalien (529516) | more than 4 years ago | (#32515030)

That's fine if we're talking about parachuting. But what if we can't properly define the risks?

"Sure, this could maybe, possibly, probably not cure you. But it could also cause... well, we have no idea, because it's never been evaluated in humans. Half of our pigs gained the ability to shoot lasers from their eyes, and the other half turned into Rush Limbaugh."

Re:Alas (1)

Ungrounded Lightning (62228) | more than 4 years ago | (#32515700)

Why? So we don't have any more thalidomide babies.

And use of thalidomide to treat psoriasis, other autoimmune diseases, several cancers, ...

Unfortunately, bureaucratic overcaution leads to not approving things that should be approved. Beta blockers, for instance. Delay there is estimated to have caused something like 300,000 excess deaths.

But a bureaucrat gets dinged for approving a drug that ends up with pictures of flipper babies but not for holding off on one that would have saved enough lives to populate Toledo Ohio.

And even then, the trials aren't perfect. Remember Vioxx? That's just one example.

Re:Alas (2, Informative)

georgewilliamherbert (211790) | more than 4 years ago | (#32515744)

I have an excellent idea of how multistage clinical trials work, and why. I have family members who were strongly affected by well known drugs that failed to be safe in general practice.

The specific technique in question has worked in all the mammals it's been tried in. That doesn't mean you can just skip ahead to doing it in humans on large scale without trials, no. But it was having problems getting approval to get the trials started, in no small part because of the insane federal government stem cell regulations from the previous administration. T his was particularly offensive because it entirely uses the patient's own stem cells (you liposuction some body fat to extract the stem cells from), and had nothing to do with embryonic stem cells.

I wouldn't be complaining if it had been winding its way through approval. The FDA had threatened vets who were doing this and who had openly discussed doing a less rigorous Phase 0 study on themselves as human test subjects. Admittedly that's not nearly as rigorous as a fully rigorous Phase 0, but it will at least give you some bounds on serious side effects.

As an aside on the normal pharmaceutical testing protocol, there are cases where severe or uniformly fatal diseases exist and people will die anyways. It took a long time to get the FDA to approve shorter protocols and widening Phase III trials to allow a chance of saving some dying patients with the study phase drugs; some of the AIDS drugs were the catalytic agent for that change. There are some cases where even a worst case - the drug kills everyone who takes it - would not be necessarily a societal or individual moral disaster compared to the underlying diseases.

You should have enough risk mitigation from Phase 0 and Phase 1 that a wider Phase 2 in many acute or terminal conditions is entirely called for. A number of medical ethicists have commented that liability risks (someone will sue, even if their loved one would have died within a month anyways) and FDA inertia are holding back a number of treatments that fall into these categories.

Just to be clear - The joint repair stem cells aren't relevant to that question - joint injuries and damage are a quality of life not survival disease.

Tag this quotemedicinequote (3, Insightful)

RyanFenton (230700) | more than 4 years ago | (#32514558)

This is not medicine. I'm a huge proponent of embryonic stem cell research - that is not what these places are. Even in the linked pages, they don't call themselves real medicine - more like 1950's utopian therapy centers, complete with watercolor art and messages of "the promise of eternal life." I've seen cryonics center websites that are far, far more ethical and honest about the product they provide. The second website even puts its own title in quotes ('"the clinic"') to avoid being as actionable about their claims.

These sites are all about offering dubiously vague claims about what folks are saying about stem cells, then offering even more dubious treatments while standing behind the mystique of being a persecuted 'forbidden' super-technique. That would be fine if they were specific about what they were attempting, and if they could point to legitimate and active partners they were involved with in order to advance the science - but they're just namedropping the science to get the flim-flam magic appeal.

There's an endless series of variants of this style of bullshit. Take a look at these sites for just the tip of the iceburg in terms of keeping an eye on it:

Science Based Medicine [sciencebasedmedicine.org]

The JREF Website ($1 million verifiable reward for any evidence of the paranormal.) [randi.org]

Ryan Fenton

Book report time (1)

Gizzmonic (412910) | more than 4 years ago | (#32514562)

All this "stem cell magic cure" stuff reminds me of the book "Charlatan" about Dr. John R. Brinkley. He used to graft goat testicles onto his patients to "refresh their male virility." In the early 20th century, he charged $700 for his services, when that was about 3/4 of the average person's yearly income. He was also not a trained surgeon and he killed and maimed many people on the operating table due to botched jobs or infections.

Reasonable (1)

blair1q (305137) | more than 4 years ago | (#32514566)

It's reasonable to believe that stem cells have healing properties, since that's exactly what your own body uses its own stem cells for.

It's reasonable to investigate stem cells as a treatment, and to experiment to determine under what conditions they have an effect, and what unwanted side-effects the therapy may have.

It's not reasonable to write them off as quackery just because quacks have jumped past the investigation and into using them as therapy.

No serious country does that.

Re:Reasonable (2, Insightful)

Conchobair (1648793) | more than 4 years ago | (#32515094)

It's got stems cells, its what the body craves.

Finally! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32514592)

Check out some of these creepy sites that offer treatments for everything from autism to MS.

Treatments to get rid of Microsoft. At last!

Stem cells (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32514760)

...are serious business.

Separting the potential from the snake oil (5, Interesting)

bradbury (33372) | more than 4 years ago | (#32514870)

While many of the current stem cell clinics overseas do fall into the snake oil category one should not cast out the baby with the bathwater. If one understands the following probable guidelines, then one may be able to navigate the field.

1) Non-autologous (non-self) stem cells are likely to be extremely problematic for therapeutic purposes because there have been a number of reports showing that the immune system will eliminate those cells over time (without immune system suppression). If you view them as "organ transplants" from other individuals which require drug protocols to suppress Natural Killer Cells and other arms of the immune system with significant probabilities of rejection then therapies which involve non-self embryonic stem cells or non-self iPSC cells might be useful. But they are never going to be a "good" solution. (This means that the debate over "embryonic stem cells" which blocked a significant amount of progress in stem cell research in the U.S. over 8 years was useless "noise".)

2) Autologous (self) stem cell therapies *are* useful. One already effectively uses them in cases of storing sperm, eggs, blood and skin for future use. There have been common uses for decades such as for blood storage before a major surgery, growing skin grafts for burn victims breast reconstruction surgery, etc. Common heart bypass operations are another example of transplanting tissue from one region of the body to another. There has been a "Holy Grail" search to obtain embryonic or totipotent stem cells over the last decade due to the press/hype that they can "grow into any tissue". While we have the knowledge to do this for some tissues we do not have it for many more. Indeed one doesn't need totipotent cells for most therapies. Partially differentiated stem cells which are very close to the target tissue types will work as well, perhaps even better, than totipotent undifferentiated cells.

3) While injecting stem cells into the blood and hoping that they end up in the right place and will do the right thing works in some cases (e.g. bone marrow transplants) it is *not* likely to work for most applications of stem cells. Each type of therapy where stem cells may be used is going to have to be a precise tissue specific (heart, brain, lung, hair follicle, joint, tendon, muscle, blood vessel, skin, etc.) therapeutic protocol. That is why one is likely to see dozens of companies with specific expertise and not "one size fits all" solutions. There isn't going to be a "magic bullet" -- therapies are largely going to have to replicate, typically through cell culture in a laboratory, many of the natural processes which occur during fetal development in order for therapies to be effective.

4) There are on the order of 2300+ clinical trials in stem cells going on around the world (according to the NIH clinical trials database). Some of them are likely to be useless. But some of them might be quite useful.

5) There are companies in the U.S. that are doing autologous stem cell therapies with a fair amount of success. Three that I'm aware of are VetStem, Regenexx and BioHeart.

6) There has not been a widespread understanding yet within the stem cell R&D and therapy communities that stem cells *do* age. Simply, stem cells accumulate mutations in their genetic code with age which will cause them to function less well if sourced from elderly individuals compared with young individuals. [Everyone should have cryopreserved pools of stem cells when they were 10-15 years old.] So a stem cell therapy that might work very well in a young individual (say 20-30) may not work as well (or at all) in an older individual (say 60-70). There are methods that may be used to address this problem (disclaimer: I am the author of a pending patent on one of these methods) but they have yet to be put into practice by *any* stem cell clinic to the best of my knowledge.

So one can "dis" current stem cell therapies as being snake oil, often with some basis for the feelings, but you should not "dis" the concept. Everyone probably has quality stem cells within their body and these could probably be used with great success in treating severe accidents and/or aging. IMO, for the next 15 years or so high quality autologous stem cell therapies will likely provide the best path for retarding aging and extending functionality for the elderly. Sometime, probably 10 to 20 years from now, if R&D is supported sufficiently, we should be able to start replacing our own cells and eventually the DNA in those cells with better operating systems.

The part I found disturbing on the stemaid site (1)

tlambert (566799) | more than 4 years ago | (#32515586)

The part I found disturbing on the stemaid site was that they claimed you could have embryonic stem cells for $15,000, but autologous embryonic stem-cells for $80,000.

Yes, they said "autologous" and "embryonic" together. That, and the reference to the Rael book make me think there is something ethically aberrant going on here in terms of how they obtain said stem cells, and that they either don't realize about the Hayflick limit and Dolly the sheep's premature senesence, or they consider it acceptable risk or cost/benefit. It really makes me wonder what else they're into.

-- Terry

Darn (0, Troll)

Locke2005 (849178) | more than 4 years ago | (#32515158)

I wonder if this will have any effect on Rush Limbaugh's decision to move to Costa Rica.

Yet Another ass backward slashdot headline (0, Offtopic)

spatley (191233) | more than 4 years ago | (#32515334)

"Stem Cell Tourists Take Costa Rica Off the Agenda"

Really did people seeking rip-off and dangerous stem cell treatments decide the Costa Rica was just not cool enough any more? No, exactly the oppisite, Costa Rica decided to no longer offer rip-off and dangerous stem cell treatments.

like as in "Costa Rica takes Stem Cell Tourism Off the Agenda"

I hate being the grammar nazi but really, English, do any of you people here speak it?

Re:Yet Another ass backward slashdot headline (1)

Midnight's Shadow (1517137) | more than 4 years ago | (#32515498)

I hate being the grammar nazi but really, English, do any of you people here speak it?

Nope. Sorry. We all speak geek.

so that means no stem cell-based enhancement (1)

porky_pig_jr (129948) | more than 4 years ago | (#32515568)

for my Microsoft. Boo hoo ...

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