Stem Cell Snake Oil and Shenanigans

Posted by Jesse Reynolds September 14, 2009
Biopolitical Times
Stem cells in umbilical cord blood
Three recent news stories have highlighted ethical shortcomings in the stem cell industry.

First, an investigation by the British newspaper The Times revealed that hundreds of parents have spent large amounts of money sending their ill children to China in order to receive unproven stem cell treatments. One leading scientist said, "I would go as far as saying that this is child abuse.” The paper's research comes after BIONET, a coalition of Chinese and European researchers, issued a statement calling for greater scrutiny of stem cell tourism to China.

Second, a federal regulatory agency here in the US is accusing a stem cell company of misrepresenting a product's state of testing. An attorney for the Securities and Exchange Commission says that CellCyte "really tried to take advantage of the hype over stem cells to give the false impression that they were on the verge of clinical trials when really it was just an early stage project that was going to require years of additional research and testing."

And last month, New Scientist discovered recycled images in papers from The Stem Cell Institute of the University of Minnesota. This comes on top of previous revelations (1, 2) of scientific misconduct at the Institute.

Anecdotal evidence implies that stem cell research harbors a disproportionate share of hucksterism, misrepresentation, and outright lies. The much-hyped climate, fueled by the flames of politics, may permit more shenanigans.