Bogus stem cell treatment warning

Macular Society issues a warning about false claims being made by stem cell clinics

Stem cells

A charity is warning members of the public not to be deceived by claims that are currently being made by bogus stem cell clinics. The Macular Society has issued the warning after three patients were left blind after undergoing unproven stem cell treatment in the US.

The women, aged between 72 and 88, were each suffering from macular degeneration and paid $5,000 (£4,100) for a procedure that was claimed to be part of a clinical trial.

However, a week after beginning treatment, the patients suffered complications that included further vision loss, detached retinas and bleeding. All three women are now registered blind.

The treatment has since been described by associate professor of clinical ophthalmology at the University of Miami, Thomas Albini, as “off-the-charts dangerous.”

When issuing the warning, the Macular Society emphasised that clinical trials in the UK are subject to strict laws that are enforced by regulatory bodies. The charity added that the procedure that was performed in the US failed to meet “even the most basic requirements of a clinical trial.”

Responding to the news, chief executive of the Macular Society, Cathy Yelf, said: "Stem cell research has the potential to bring great benefit to people with macular conditions and the Macular Society is funding some important work in this area. However, it is vital that such research is fully controlled and we support the strict regulation which exists in the UK.

“There are no fully-trialled, approved stem cell therapies available yet for macular degeneration anywhere in the world, although early, ‘safety’ trials are showing promise.”

Ms Yelf urged anyone who might be considering this sort of untested treatment to speak to their optometrist first or call the charity’s helpline on 0300 303 0111.