Since stem cell treatment cannot be administered in the United States due to federal restrictions, many U.S. citizens are traveling abroad to get this form of treatment.
Health officials call the procedures, which have been proven safe in many cases, risky and experimental. Despite the criticism, it seems the scientific evidence has trumped any attempt at diminishing the very real therapeutic potential of stem cells. Patients are traveling to countries in Central America and India and spending thousands of dollars to undergo stem cell treatment procedures.
Brian Sheridan, who is the supervisor for the Center for Spinal Cord Injury at the Rehabilitation Institute of Michigan in Detroit said that, “there are always risks.”
“You can end up with an adverse event. That’s the nature of some of these experimental procedures.”
With the hope of regaining her ability to walk, Jeni Rummelt is currently in Europe receiving her 6th stem cell treatment. The 32-year-old was paralyzed from the waist down following a car accident.
“(These abilities) would have never come back without the stem cells,” said Rummelt, who spent $25,000 on the first procedure and $7,000 for each subsequent therapy. “It’s a slow progress. You know it’s not going to happen overnight, but it’s worth it.”
Since the destruction of human embryos is required for embryonic stem cell research, many individuals say this type of research is unethical.
However, it is now possible to transform adult stem cells which are derived from the skin, into the equivalent of embryonic stem cells. This new discovery should quiet many critics, especially with further advancements of the technology already on the way.
“I can understand their motivation, their desperation but it’s not something I can recommend if the treatments have not been proven to be safe and effective,” said Mervin Yoder, an Indiana-based doctor who is president of the International Society for Hematology and Stem Cells.