Are stem cell tourists being swindled?

Maybe, maybe not. According to the July edition of the publication
Popular Science and its online companion site, desperate US patients are headed offshore for experimental stem cell therapies, referred to as stem cell tourism.

Although there are numerous warnings, many patients are left with few options and turn to companies that supply adult stem cells that are harvested from their bone marrow and blood, including Regenocyte Therapeutic, XCell-Center (Germany), TheraVitae (Canada) and Beike Biotechnology (China).

The US-based cardiologist Zannos Grekos, MD, FAAC, the founder of the adult stem-cell company Regenocyte Therapeutic, offers a unique process touted as "safe, highly effective, and present[ing] minimal risk."

The process involves an evaluation and drawing of blood in Florida, then the blood is flown to Israel "so that the stem cells can be ‘activated' and multiplied to a therapeutic strength" in a lab; once ready they're sent to the Dominican Republic where the patient is greeted and begins the therapy.

The cost is about $64,000 (€52,733) and Regenocyte's site states that this therapy is used to treat a range of health challenges affecting cardiac and vascular patients as well as ongoing research and development to help those suffering from ALS, Parkinson's, Alzheimer's and multiple sclerosis.

On June 7, Costa Rica announced that it has "discontinued stem cell procedures at its biggest clinic, the Institute of Cellular Medicine (ICM) in San Jose, which has treated about 400 people since it opened in 2006" because the Ministry of Health in Costa Rica found "there is no hard scientific evidence indicating that the treatments work."

ICM had promoted stem-cell treatments that have yet to be proven efficacious or safe for "multiple sclerosis, cerebral palsy, and spinal cord injury."

The International Society for Stem Cell Research (ISSCR) continually urges patients not to seek therapy overseas because these practices have not been proven sound by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

In 2009, Jeanne Loring, PhD, director for the Center for Regenerative Medicine at The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI) in California, echoed ISSCR's concern in a video clip, explaining stem cell tourism as the "exploitation of the promise of cures using stem-cells."

Loring then asked those who have made the decision to seek stem cell therapies overseas against all the warnings "to ask the clinic to collect a sample of the stem cells they intend to use you can freeze and send it to me and I will analyze it for free and I will tell you what the stem cells are and ... [whether it] will be dangerous or helpful to you."

Grekos contends that the practice is safe and that adult stem cells should not be in the domain of the FDA, "There's no genetic manipulation or splicing - you're not altering the cells at all. All you're doing is maturing them. The growth factors we use are naturally occurring in the body."

Whereas cardiologist Deepak Srivastava, the director of Gladstone Institute of Cardiovascular Disease in San Francisco and member of ISSCR, said "an unbiased body approving these treatments is important so the public has some sort of stamp. I get e-mails frequently from patients around the world saying, ‘I got stem-cell injections, and initially it seemed like it might have helped, but now I'm back in the same boat.' "

It is unclear if patients are being swindled, but if you find yourself reaching for your passport to get some stem cells why not take Loring up on her offer - it's free and a clinic confident in their research and therapies should be willing to undergo a second (verifying) opinion.

Watch stem cell tourist testimonials: and

i100 In this video, the late actor Leonard Nimoy explains how he decided to use the gesture for his character
Arts and Entertainment
Secrets of JK Rowling's Harry Potter workings have been revealed in a new bibliography
arts + ents
Robert De Niro has walked off the set of Edge of Darkness
news The Godfather Part II actor has an estimated wealth of over $200m
Arts and Entertainment
Fearne Cotton is leaving Radio 1 after a decade
radio The popular DJ is leaving for 'family and new adventures'
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Sauce Recruitment: Retail Planning Manager - Home Entertainment UK

    salary equal to £40K pro-rata: Sauce Recruitment: Are you available to start a...

    Ashdown Group: Front-End Developer - London - up to £40,000

    £35000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Creative Front-End Developer - Claph...

    Recruitment Genius: Product Quality Assurance Technologist - Hardline & Electric

    £18000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The role in this successful eco...

    Ashdown Group: QA Tester - London - £30,000

    £28000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: QA Tester - London - £30,000 QA Tes...

    Day In a Page

    HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

    Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

    Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
    How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

    Time to play God

    Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
    MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

    MacGyver returns, but with a difference

    Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
    Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

    Tunnel renaissance

    Why cities are hiding roads underground
    'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

    Boys to men

    The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
    Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

    Crufts 2015

    Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
    10 best projectors

    How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

    Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
    Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

    Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

    Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
    Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

    Monaco: the making of Wenger

    Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
    Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

    Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

    Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
    In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

    In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

    This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
    'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

    Homage or plagiarism?

    'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
    Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

    A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

    Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
    A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

    Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

    A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower