Stem cell research becomes one of science’s most potential fields and scientists are making great advances in the development of stem cell treatments to help patients. The growth of stem cell therapies, however, is “advantage” to take for many clinics in proceeding unproven and illegal clinical trials with expensive treatments. So, what should consumers know about this promising research?

What are stem cells?

Stem cells are a class of general cells that are able to develop into different types of cells. In many tissues, stem cells play a role in internal repair system and replenish other cells without limit. Different types of stem cells have different capabilities in the body. Generally, stem cells have two main resources: embryonic stem cells and adult stem cells. Embryonic stem cells are “pluripotent” cells derived from three- to five-day-old embryos. They have the ability to become any cell type in the human body. Adult stem cells, however, come from already existing tissues and organs.

Stem cells’ uses

While some stem cells’ uses are demonstrated conclusively, there are very few stem cell treatments have been proven safe and effective like mesenchymal cells – a type of adult stem cells. There is given no clue that these stem cells can go through the human body, finding and fixing a range of problems, as some clinics claim. The effectiveness of stem cells is evident in the use of blood or bone marrow stem cells to deal with diseases or injury such as leukemia, lymphoma or multiple myeloma. Some of these treatments conduce to a desired result, especially in children, using placental or umbilical cord blood.

Stem cell therapies might be conducted effectively yet safely in the future for the treatments of an array of diseases including heart failure, brain cancer, neurodegenerative diseases, eye disorders and other diseases. Age-related macular degeneration is among the most promising targets.

Great treatment always comes with high risks and stem cell treatment is not an exception. It is difficult to generalize about safety at the clinics because of the difference in processing and administering stem cells, as does the expertise of people performing the procedure and the position where stem cells are injected or infused. Stem cell transplant can cause side effects as vision loss or even death. The chance of getting physical and financial risks demands extreme caution in stem cell treatments.

FDA guidelines about stem cells

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is responsible for regulating the stem cell treatment industry. In the guidelines released last year, FDA clarified which types of stem cell treatments are in essence unapproved drugs and require agency approval. Many of therapies related to fat-derived stem cells require FDA approval under policy. Consumers, therefore, need to be very careful and make sure whether their treatments have been approved by an agency or are being studied under an investigatory new-drug application before deciding to use stem cell treatments.