Australasian Science: Australia's authority on science since 1938

The Stem Cell “Sell”

Credit: eyeidea/adobe

Credit: eyeidea/adobe

By Megan Munsie, Ian Kerridge, Cameron Stewart, Tereza Hendl, Wendy Lipworth, Tamra Lysaght & Catherine Waldby

The unfettered commercial environment that has allowed stem cell tourism to flourish must be challenged, and the professionals who enable it should be held to account.

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.

In recent years, a growing number of clinics in Australia and overseas have begun to offer therapies that claim to restore health by using stem cells to replace or repair the patient's faulty or missing cells. For those who have been told that conventional medicine has nothing more to offer, a visit to a stem cell clinic may appear to be worth the time, effort and expense that this entails.

The reality, sadly, is very different. Most people are unlikely to benefit, losing precious time, money, hope and trust in the course of pursuing this new form of medical tourism.

What’s on Offer?

Stem cell tourism is a phrase used to encompass travel – usually overseas – for a wide range of therapies involving stem cells. These therapies may involve the use of the patient’s own (autologous) stem cells from fat or their bone marrow, or donated stem cells from cord blood, embryos and foetal tissue.

Therapy might be administered by having the patient inhale the cells, or by injecting the cells under the skin, into a vein or joint, directly into the fluid around the spinal cord or into the patient’s brain. Such therapies have been touted as effective treatments for many conditions and illnesses including arthritis, spinal cord injury, motor neurone disease, multiple sclerosis, cerebral palsy, neurodegenerative conditions and autism. Often the same treatment...

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.