Warning over 'unsafe' stem cell therapies
EXPERTS have warned patients to stay away from unproven and unsafe stem cell treatments which can have horrific consequences.
They cited one example where a woman who wanted to banish her wrinkles found her face turning to bone.
Around 10 clinics in Europe are thought to be offering stem cell therapies for a range of conditions, including serious brain diseases such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's.
In China, patients have had huge infusions of stem cells pumped into their blood streams in the belief that this will prevent them ageing.
The cells used in these treatments are mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) which are widespread around the body.
They can develop into fat, cartilage, muscle and bone but there is no proof they can generate other kinds of tissue, such as nerves.
However, research has shown they stimulate blood vessel growth and can attract other strains of stem cell.
Stem cell scientists attending the British Science Festival at the University of Newcastle told how some patients were being lured into undergoing potentially dangerous treatments using MSCs.
Professor Bruno Peault, from the University of Edinburgh, said: "These clinics are taking advantage of desperate people."
Referring to the case of a woman in California who had a stem cell treatment for wrinkles, he said: "A few days later she had a hard time just opening her eyes.
"She heard a crunching noise. What happened was the cells had turned to bone and she had calcification in her face."
Around five or six MSC clinics are believed to operate in Germany, with others in the Netherlands and Spain.