• By Susan Buckles

Science Saturday: Dispelling the hype of stem cell interventions

October 23, 2021
A liquid nitrogen bank containing suspension of stem cells. Cell culture for the biomedical diagnostic

Physicians need more resources, tools and education to counsel patients about emerging stem cell therapies, a study in Mayo Clinic Proceedings concludes. Interest in regenerative procedures is mushrooming along with an increase in chronic diseases that have few therapeutic options. The study examined how physicians at the intersection of complex conditions, regenerative discoveries and responsible translation counsel patients who are seeking alternatives when standard care doesn't provide relief.

"Our study highlights a clear need to educate and inform physicians about stem cell and regenerative interventions, to enhance skills in patient-physician shared decision-making and to provide resources for patients," says Zubin Master, Ph.D., a Mayo Clinic bioethicist for Mayo Clinic's Center for Regenerative Medicine. "If patients feel their questions and concerns are dismissed by physicians and clinical teams, this may drive them to seek unproven, costly and potentially harmful treatments elsewhere."

Mayo Clinic's Center for Regenerative Medicine supports Dr. Master's work as part of its objective of advancing validated regenerative therapies that address unmet patient needs.

The research 

Dr. Master's team interviewed 25 specialists at Mayo Clinic in the areas of cardiology, ophthalmology, orthopedics, pulmonology and neurology over a period of 11 months.  The data were broken into two analyses. The first paper published in Cytotherapy outlined the attitudes of physicians toward stem cell and regenerative interventions that are not approved by the Food and Drug Administration. Besides physician concerns about scientific validation, cost and safety, the analysis found:

  • Most providers did not feel it was appropriate to offer unapproved regenerative stem cell interventions within standard clinical care.
  • Some orthopedists said it could be appropriate to offer regenerative procedures that are proven to be safe, if there is some likelihood of benefit, costs are reasonable, and when all standard treatments have been exhausted.

The Mayo Clinic Proceedings paper found that providers took informational and relational approaches to counsel patients requesting regenerative interventions.

Read the rest of the article on the Center for Regenerative Medicine blog.

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