The use of stem cells to treat patients is not new. For example, stem cells found in bone marrow and umbilical cord blood have been used to treat diseases of the blood and immune system for many years.
Within Australia, the only proven treatments available involving stem cells are corneal (eye), skin grafting, and blood stem cell transplants for the treatment of some blood, inherited immune and metabolic disorders, cancer and autoimmune diseases. By and large, these represent traditional cell therapies in which cells or tissues are taken from a donor and transplanted into/onto a recipient. There are many other potential treatments, but these are still in the research phase or in clinical trials, and are yet to be proven safe and effective. For those seeking cures, the wait for delivery on these novel treatments can be frustrating, however it is important that they undergo rigorous testing to ensure they are safe.
Concerning for medical experts, there are already clinics and companies offering ‘stem cell treatments’ that have not been validated in registered clinical trials. These unproven ‘stem cell treatments’ are offered across the globe, including Australia, and tend to be expensive, ineffective, and potentially even unsafe. In October 2017, the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) announced that it will be changing Australian regulations for autologous human cell and tissue products. This change is designed to ensure experimental treatments are properly monitored and assessed.
Before embarking on any treatment, it is important you get the facts and discuss all your options with your doctor. Remember the testimonial from a patient is not proof that a treatment works.
To learn more about stem cells, how and why clinical trials are used to evaluate new treatments and the issues you should consider before seeking experimental, unproven stem cell therapies, please visit Stem Cells Australia.