Essay: Evaluating Stem Cell Therapies
Hospitals, clinics, and even private doctor’s offices and laboratories now offer stem cell treatments, making claims about what stem cells can do. Our understanding of the science and the discoveries so far does not support some of these claims. Currently, the only stem cell therapy that has strong support for its effectiveness is the therapy referred to as bone marrow transplant, which is commonly done for lymphoma, leukemia, and other blood cancers. The material studied in this activity should clarify some of the misinformation that is widely circulated. You will apply what you have learned so far and be a critical consumer of information.
Review these assigned readings; they will serve as your scientific sources of accurate information:
- Understanding Stem Cells [PDF, file size 974 KB] from the National Academies.
- Nine Things to Know About Stem Cell Treatments (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site.
- How Science Becomes Medicine (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site.
- Fighting aging using stem cell therapy (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site.
- Stem cells in Texas: Cowboy culture (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site.
- Goldman, B. (2016) White coat, black art: Stem cell hype and risk (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site. CBC Radio
- Kamenova, K., & Caulfield, T. (2015) Stem cell hype: Media portrayal of therapy translation (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site.. Science Translational Medicine, V7, Issue 278, pp. 278 [Note: Just read abstract]
- Use a standard Google search for this phrase: “stem cell therapy.” Do not go to Google Scholar. Select one of the websites, blogs, or other locations that offer stem cell therapies.
- Save the link for your selected site.
- Read the materials provided on your selected site and find out who the authors and sponsors of the site are by going to their “home” or “about us” pages.
Finally, submit your responses to the following in an essay of 500-750 words (2-3 pages of text—use a separate page for a title and for your references):
You are going to prepare a critique of the site you located and compare it to the scientific information available on this therapy.
- Give the full title of the website, web blog, or other site that you selected, along with the link.
- Describe the therapy that is being offered and what conditions it is designed to treat.
- Who are the authors and sponsors of the site you selected?
- Compare the claims about the therapy offered to what is said in the assigned readings about this type of therapy. You may have to use our library, as well, to determine what scientists and researchers have to say about the use of stem cells to treat this condition.
- Would you say that the therapy you found is a well-established, proven technique for humans, or more of an experimental, unproven approach?
- What about the type of language discussed in the Goldman article? Is the therapy you found using sensationalist claims and terminology that are not supported by the scientific research?
- Would you recommend that a patient with this condition go ahead and participate in this treatment? Why or why not?