Ukrainian stem cell miracles don’t come cheaply
A stunning expose by the Boston Globe has revealed that at least nine clinics around the world are offering to cure patients suffering from disease like muscular dystrophy with injections of embryonic stem cells. After investigating the work of one sophisticated clinic in Kiev, the capital of the Ukraine, and consulting American experts in muscular dystrophy and stem cells, the Globe suspects that the clinic is “a poorly documented operation that appears to be capitalising on the excitement surrounding stem cells at the expense of desperate families”.
Dr Alexander Smikodub, the director of EmCell, the Kiev clinic, claims that he has treated more than 1,000 patients for dozens of conditions. His website promises to treat diseases ranging from diabetes to cancer to ageing. American scientists thought that his work was scientifically incoherent. They said that they would not consider injecting embryonic stem cells directly into a human being because they “are likely to develop into cancerous tumours”.
In fact, contrary to what EmCell claims on its website, the cells used by the clinic are not embryonic stem cells, but cells from aborted foetuses between two and eight weeks after conception.
The Globe spoke to one American family who had taken their 15-year-old son to the clinic twice, at a cost of US$25,000, and are thinking of a third treatment costing $8,000. The newspaper’s survey of EmCell’s patients showed that the treatment did not seem very effective.
But Dr Smikodub dismisses American scepticism. “We think that many of the things we are doing will be explained by science in the very near future,” he told Globe reporter Gareth Cook. “My method of research is the clinical method, and it is impossible to explain many of these things.”
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