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Thursday, April 18, 2024
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R. Alta Charo, Warren P. Knowles Professor of Law & Bioethics at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, is pictured on July 12, 2013. (Photo by Jeff Miller/UW-Madison)

UW-Madison professor debunks therapeutic ‘stem cell tourism’

University of Wisconsin-Madison law and bioethics professor Alta Charo works to raise awareness for the dangers of “stem cell tourism,” according to a university press release Monday.

Stem cell tourism refers to people who travel within the United States and abroad in the pursuit of stem cells. These people are often sick and “desperate” and are falsely led to believe stem cell therapy can cure an array of medical conditions, Charo said in the release.

Advertisements for stem cell clinics often tout their treatments, but although “patients all over the world are convinced stem cells will cure their disease,” little data exists that proves the effectiveness of using stem cell therapeutically, according to Charo.

Not only are some stem cell treatments advertised by clinics questionable and often useless, they can also be dangerous, according to the release.

“We already have had two reported deaths of children, and there are probably more injured than anybody would imagine,” Charo said in the release. “It’s time we started complaining a little more loudly.”

Though there have been instances of “approved and unapproved treatments in the United States,” many clinics that pose danger exist outside the country. Clinics in China are responsible for about half of all stem cell treatments, and Mexico, Russia and Costa Rica also have defective clinics, according to the release.

Charo emphasized the importance of regulation and realism when dealing with stem cells.

“It is time to lose the hype without losing the hope,” she said in the release.

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