Stem cell treatments, which are being touted as the new cure to all kinds of diseases, have yet to be fully vetted as viable treatments. When not used correctly, scientists and doctors warn that it could bring about dangerous consequences.
Such is the case in three women who were left nearly or completely blind after undergoing treatment at a stem cell clinic, proving just how risky these clinics can be, CBS News reports. Dr. Thomas Albini of the University of Miami examined the women after they were treated at a clinic in Florida.
These women had fairly functional vision prior to the procedure…and were blinded by the next day.
One woman is now totally blind, while the other two are legally blind. It’s unlikely their vision will ever improve, Albini said.
The women, who are in their 70s and 80s, paid $5,000 each in 2015 for stem cell treatment of age-related macular degeneration. One of the leading causes of vision impairment in older adults, this condition damages a part of the retina that gives people sharp, central eyesight.
Two of the women went to the clinic because it listed their condition on a federal database. It was supposed to be a study, but the consent form Albini and his team obtained showed it was for a medical procedure.
Each woman was injected in both eyes with stem cells taken from their own fat tissue. “It’s very alarming to us as clinicians that somebody would do this to both eyes at the same time,” Albini said.
Andrew B. Yaffa, a lawyer who represented two of the women in lawsuits, said that the cases had been settled, but provided no further details.
The clinic is run by US Stem Cell, Inc., which offers treatments for a number of diseases and injuries. The company said in a statement that it does not currently treat patients, but added that they have “successfully conducted more than 7,000 stem cell procedures with less than 0.01% adverse reactions reported.”
The clinic listed the eye study on ClinicalTrials.gov. But doctors and authorities warn that clinical trial listings are not guarantees that a study is legitimate. Many stem cell clinics argue that they are not under the control of the US Food and Drug Administration. Albini recommends that people considering such treatments get documentation that the study has been registered with the FDA.
The study was published in the New England Journal of Medicine.