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Stem Cell Tourists Take Costa Rica Off the Agenda 206

Posted by timothy
from the honey-let's-have-another-embryo dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Stem cell tourism is a booming and troubling industry, in which clinics in places like Mexico, China, and India offer rich tourists experimental stem-cell-based treatments, none of which have been approved by the FDA here in the US. (Check out some of these creepy sites that offer treatments for everything from autism to MS, and even the 'very common ailment called aging.') But in one positive development, Costa Rica just shut down its top stem cell clinic. Said the country's health minister, 'This isn't allowed in any serious country in the world.'"
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Stem Cell Tourists Take Costa Rica Off the Agenda

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  • That Stemaid site is a veritable goldmine for humor. Did anyone else download and scan their brochure "Yes to Human Cloning [clonaid.com]"? No? Nobody. Well, I cannot resist reproducing the first two paragraphs from the section "About the Author" (Raël of the Raëlian Foundation [wikipedia.org]):

    In 1974, I released The Book Which Tells The Truth, which described my contact with the Elohim, the extra-terrestrials who created us scientifically in their laboratories, and who were mistaken for 'God' or 'gods' by our primitive ancestors, who were too ignorant to understand the truth. At the time, it was the public's enthusiasm for the 'UFO phenomenon' that made my books and the conferences I held around the world a success.

    Nevertheless, when I explained that we would soon be able to do the same thing ourselves and live forever, thanks to cloning, many laughed. However, their laughter was tinged with the empty sound of those who have always been too shortsighted to see beyond their noses and foresee the fall of their own paradigms.

    Which website will you pick to clone you? I think I'm going for the one that gave me some propaganda on a religion surrounding the Elohim. Sounds like they know what they're up to. Or maybe you've got advanced AIDS (one of the many treatable conditions [stemaid.com] which conveniently have no other cures) How does it work? Well, they just shoot you up with a bunch of stem cells. No, I'm serious [stemaid.com]:

    Stem Cell Therapy, SCT, is a treatment that provides stem cells in the appropriate location to assist the body where it needs to heal and regenerate its existing cells.
    Depending on the conditions, stem cells can be delivered through the blood stream or directly to the organ to treat. It isn’t understood yet how stem cell communicates with the body to determine and travel to sites of need but results have been observed showing stem cells located near the damage area and dividing there generating new differentiated healthy cells.

    It's a process which many leading scientists suspect might be a miracle! And you know, if it doesn't work, you just didn't present the stem cells the right conditions and we just need you to pay for a trip back and more saline ... er therapy injections. Maybe you have a supressive person in your life who has been telling you that we are a scam and that's why the stem cell therapy didn't work? Anyone else reminded of Professor Farnsworth's trip to GeneWorks S.K.G. from Three Hundred Big Boys [theinfosphere.org]?

    • In 1974, I released The Book Which Tells The Truth, which described my contact with the Elohim, the extra-terrestrials who created us scientifically in their laboratories, and who were mistaken for 'God' or 'gods' by our primitive ancestors, who were too ignorant to understand the truth. At the time, it was the public's enthusiasm for the 'UFO phenomenon' that made my books and the conferences I held around the world a success.

      L. Ron, is that you?

      • by bynary (827120)
        Probably. I mean at least some of the stem cell tourists must be getting to their destinations via 747's, right?
        • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

          by Wyatt Earp (1029)

          Come'on now, 747s? Thats just crazy...

          The 14.4 zillion people killed 4 quadrillion years ago in volcanos that just started existing 100,000 years ago were taken there in DC-8s

          • by bynary (827120)
            I'm truly sorry. I was confusing my space-faring aircraft. Kudos to you Mr. Earp for pointing out my mistake.

            I wonder if any of these "doctors" have taken up residency aboard the Freewinds? What could be better than a stem cell therapy cruise?
        • Probably. I mean at least some of the stem cell tourists must be getting to their destinations via DC-8's, right?

          FTFY
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by PCM2 (4486)

        L. Ron, is that you?

        Essentially, albeit with much of L. Ron's venal cynicism replaced with actual batshittery. Wikipedia has information on the so-called Raëlian Movement [wikipedia.org], described as "the world's largest UFO religion."

    • by CannonballHead (842625) on Wednesday June 09, 2010 @01:41PM (#32514268)

      Elohim? Very original. That would be the Hebrew plural - or superlative, can be used both ways - for God. "El" is God, Elohim is the plural or superlative.

      I wonder how much he/the at the site make.

      • by lwsimon (724555)

        God self-references as "we" multiple times in Genesis.

        Genesis 1:26, KJV:

        And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.

        I beleive that would be "Elohim" in Hebrew, though I am not really very well read in that area.

        • Correct, the monotheistic God of the Old Testament is referred to with the plural... that is one of the reasons for a Trinitarian view of God. The plural was also used as a superlative, however... sort of like saying "God of gods."

          My point was that this guy calling his aliens "Elohim" seems to be ... rather a rip-off.

          • Correct, the monotheistic God of the Old Testament is referred to with the plural... that is one of the reasons for a Trinitarian view of God. The plural was also used as a superlative, however... sort of like saying "God of gods."

            My point was that this guy calling his aliens "Elohim" seems to be ... rather a rip-off.

            Well, if there's one thing that cults and religion have conclusively proved, it's that the best way to start a new one is to rip off an old one. Less brainwork and you can sucker in some of the old one's members.

        • by Morty (32057)

          GP is correct, Elohim isn't always plural. The above verse is not a counter-example. slashdot won't let me post Hebrew words, but you can see verse 26 here:

          http://www.mechon-mamre.org/p/pt/pt0101.htm [mechon-mamre.org]

          In Hebrew, nouns and verbs agree on singular vs. plural. The subject of "elohim" takes the verb "va-yo-mer", which is singular; the plural would have been "va-yo-m'ru". So basic Hebrew grammar means that the word "elohim" is acting in the singular even though the word looks like a plural. The

    • It isn’t understood yet how stem cell communicates with the body to determine and travel to sites of need but results have been observed showing stem cells located near the damage area and dividing there generating new differentiated healthy cells.

      I could believe that. New healthy differentiated cells. Would they repair the damage? Does pouring wet concrete onto a damaged building repair it? No, I'm guessing you need more signaling and structure. Embryos don't make their bodies by just grouping a bunch of stem cells in a roughly humanoid shape and then the cells know what to do to make arms and brains. It's complicated.

      Additionally, I'd worry about the differentiated part. If you inject a mouse with induced pluripotent stem cells or embryonic

    • by jeffmeden (135043)

      Don't miss their claim to cure Myocardial Infarction (also known as a heart attack). The next time you have a heart attack, don't bother calling 911, just jump on the internet, order up a stem cell treatment, fly out to god-knows-where, and have them cure you right quick.

      Hey, it has to be at least as effective as CPR [wikipedia.org], right?

    • You know, they probably believe in "2012 end of the world" too.

      If you do some research on the Mayan Calendar myth, you'll find that it is also propogated by people who believe that extra-terrestrials started humans on Earth, and that it's founder also had some telepathic harmonic contact with the spirits of the past and aliens overhead.

      It's like these nuts are everywhere. I'm almost afraid I'm going to offend someone I know by bashing it.

  • by spazdor (902907) on Wednesday June 09, 2010 @01:35PM (#32514166)

    In other news, the health minister is no longer invited to any parties hosted by Costa Rica's total joke neighbours.

    • Re:'serious country' (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Acer500 (846698) on Wednesday June 09, 2010 @05:40PM (#32517340) Journal
      You know, some countries in South America have such serious problems inspiring confidence, that Argentina ran ad campaigns on neighbouring countries and potential investors touting themselves as "a Serious Country" ("Argentina, un país en serio").

      At the same time they were stealing from the pension funds, setting a blockade to the neighbouring country Uruguay (where I come from), and lots of other stuff (just search for the words of the ad, and you'll find lots of criticism). Not to mention they had just defaulted from their debt and all that.

      And actually, Costa Rica is one of the most serious countries in Latin America, and way more credible than their "joke" neighbours.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 09, 2010 @01:36PM (#32514188)

    Human trials before approval on people who have the money to fund it... it might be incredibly dangerous and questionable ethically but these people who get these treatments pay themselves and take all the risks. Why not study them instead of stop them?

    • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Wednesday June 09, 2010 @01:46PM (#32514342) Journal
      The problem is not with people taking risks(well, that bothers the nanny-staters almost as much as the source of the stem cells bothers the godbots; but that isn't a big deal); but with how the sellers are representing the risks. Competent individuals choosing to take risks, or not, is freedom. Hucksters misrepresenting risks to desperate sick people is somewhere between fraud and manslaughter, depending on how it goes.
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by PopeRatzo (965947) *

        Hucksters misrepresenting risks to desperate sick people is somewhere between fraud and manslaughter, depending on how it goes.

        What's the matter, you don't like the "free market"?

        In a real Libertarian Utopia, we are free to defraud one another, even the most desperate and sick. Of course, Rand Paul would never give his business to anyone who would do that, because personally he finds fraud a bad thing. But he believes it would be worse for the government to interfere with a private business.

        If we let the

        • by russotto (537200) on Wednesday June 09, 2010 @02:06PM (#32514630) Journal

          In a real Libertarian Utopia, we are free to defraud one another, even the most desperate and sick.

          Eh? Says who? Fraud is on the short list of things most libertarians (aside from the anarchist variety) believe is within the legitimate realm of the state to prevent.

          Of course, in the real world we live in, some people are free to defraud us all they want (because the cost of doing anything about it through the legal system is prohibitive) while others have to walk the straight and narrow (because their opponents have lawyers on retainer) and sometimes even that isn't safe.

          We have a lot more to fear from a corporate state than we do from a "nanny" state.

          What makes you think we can't have both? In fact, the "nanny" state follows from the "corporate" (fascist) state when insurance companies are some of the more powerful corporations.

          • by PopeRatzo (965947) *

            Fraud is on the short list of things most libertarians (aside from the anarchist variety) believe is within the legitimate realm of the state to prevent.

            Citation, please?

            In fact, the "nanny" state follows from the "corporate" (fascist) state when insurance companies are some of the more powerful corporations.

            Oh, I agree. And we are a long, long way from a "nanny" state in the US. I'd like to see the insurance industry limited to liability. For health care and risk amelioration, all insurance should be non

            • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

              by lwsimon (724555)

              Citation [aynrand.org]

              The only legitimate job of a securities law enforcement division is to protect investors against the specific crimes of theft, fraud, and breach of contract.

              I believe Ayn Rand herself argued that taxation to fund contract enforcement is not a legitimate use of governmental force, but that the service should be provided on a percentage-of-transaction basis, and used as an optional means of generating revenue.

              Also see the Heritage Foundation's Sentencing of Corporate Fraud and White Collar Crimes [heritage.org]

              • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

                by jeffmeden (135043)

                Citation [aynrand.org]

                The only legitimate job of a securities law enforcement division is to protect investors against the specific crimes of theft, fraud, and breach of contract.

                I believe Ayn Rand herself argued that taxation to fund contract enforcement is not a legitimate use of governmental force, but that the service should be provided on a percentage-of-transaction basis, and used as an optional means of generating revenue.

                Also see the Heritage Foundation's Sentencing of Corporate Fraud and White Collar Crimes [heritage.org]

                Yeah we aren't going to tax you, we are just going to collect a fee based on the total amount of the transaction and use it for purposes pursuant to the good of the general public.

                Wow Ayn Rand has done it again! She solved taxation!!!!!!!!!11oneoneoneelevntybillion

              • That quote is for fraud prosecution, not fraud prevention. Prosecution is coming in after the fact and shutting down the corporation, at which time the huckster founds a new company and starts again.

                Preventing fraud involves regulation, like the kind that lead to gas pumps requiring periodic certification to be accurate in their measurements. And I've specifically seen someone on Slashdot rail against that as anti-Libertarian. If you agree that regulation to prevent fraud is part of the Libertarian agend

            • by lgw (121541) on Wednesday June 09, 2010 @02:53PM (#32515242) Journal

              Most rational libertarians would agree that the government's business in business includes fraud prevention, contract enforcement, and standardization of terms and measures used in contracts - all of which can be summarazied as "make contracts work". Contracts are nearly a religion for some libertarians.

              Also, I don't think "non-profit" means what you want it to mean. For example, it's ofen the "non-profit" hospitals that are the most expensive and ritzy, and least likely to extend care to the indigent.

              • by jeffmeden (135043)

                Most rational libertarians would agree that the government's business in business includes fraud prevention, contract enforcement, and standardization of terms and measures used in contracts - all of which can be summarazied as "make contracts work". Contracts are nearly a religion for some libertarians.

                Also, I don't think "non-profit" means what you want it to mean. For example, it's ofen the "non-profit" hospitals that are the most expensive and ritzy, and least likely to extend care to the indigent.

                He said insurance companies should be nonprofit (meaning they exist just to pay the bills and manage the risk, not provide a return for investors) however this ignores the capitalist need for competition since the quest for profit is what drives an insurance company to innovate with something awesome like a default swap instead of just selling policies for houses and boring crap like that. Ahem I am getting off track.

                You are thinking of "nonprofit" retirement homes, those tend to be the hardest places to g

                • by lgw (121541)

                  "Non-profit" is a legal term with a specific definition, far removed from the simple idea of "not making a profit". A lot of non-profits make a lot of money at the time of sale, and it's only the accountants who understand why they're (legally) non-profits.

          • Fraud is on the short list of things most libertarians (aside from the anarchist variety) believe is within the legitimate realm of the state to prevent.

            Note that the anarchist libertarians (by which I assume you mean anarcho-capitalists or agorists, since the other kind have no use for contracts) are also anti-fraud; we simply don't believe that the state is required to prevent it. The basic libertarian principles/qualifications regarding property and contracts are:

            • Contracts are defined as the conditional or unconditional transfer of title over alienable property from the current owner to a new owner. This includes performance bonds ("I hereby transfer ti
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by cephalien (529516)

      Well, it's not even questionable ethically -- it's just completely unethical.

      Second, we can't study them, because it would never be a properly controlled group unless you can properly account for the myriad of factors associated with such a study (type of disease, progression, lifestyle).

      It's not as easy as just lumping together a dozen people who happen to have come to your 'clinic' to be injected with who knows what (preparation standards? Not in /my/ study!)

      Anyone who is offering to inject stem cells int

    • Because the research isn't there yet. It's not a maybe, this definitely will not work, it will either do absolutely nothing (immune system rejects the cells) or will kill the patient (cells form tumors).

    • by Rich0 (548339)

      I'm completely fine with it given a few requirements:

      1. Informed consent. Emphasis on the informed bit.
      2. If you mess yourself up doing this, national healthcare won't pay to fix you back up. Better set aside money to cover that, or buy a private insurance policy (probably expensive) to cover the risks.

      Otherwise, it is your body, do what you want with it. The government should only have a say when you want them to start paying the bills, or if fraud is taking place.

      I suspect that most of these "clinics

  • Charlatans (Score:5, Informative)

    by al0ha (1262684) on Wednesday June 09, 2010 @01:39PM (#32514244) Journal
    will always take advantage of the desperate. 60 Minutes did a piece on this same topic in April about a guy living in the US who scams people the same way, a real upstanding citizen. Kudos to Costa Rica for shutting their clinic down.

    http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2010/04/16/60minutes/main6402854.shtml [cbsnews.com]
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by LWATCDR (28044)

      Or see Laetrile http://www.quackwatch.org/01QuackeryRelatedTopics/Cancer/laetrile.html [quackwatch.org]
      Of course in a way you can not blame people. Imagine if you had a known terminal condition and there was nothing that could be done.
      At that point the idea of what do you have to loose becomes very real.

      Yep those folks are foul and yes good for you Costa Rica.

  • I wonder... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Wednesday June 09, 2010 @01:41PM (#32514280) Journal
    How many of these various offshore stem-cell shops fall into the following categories?

    1. Scientists/research MDs whose interpretation of risk/reward tradeoffs differs from that of the FDA. In this category I would put more or less orthodox researchers who are of the position that the risks of stem cell use(cancer, infection, immune responses, etc.) are either just not that serious compared to the potential benefits and/or are the individual's choice to make.

    2. Sincere cranks. In this category would go the various flavors of nutter who have gone straight off the deep end in terms of actual research about what stem cells are capable of, and how to make them do it; but are fully sincere in their belief that stem cells are the magic bullet against autism or aging, or whatever they are selling them as.

    3. Cynical hucksters: All the research seriousness of the above; but without the slightly wild-eyed sincerity. However, they know that lying to desperate sick people is both easy and lucrative.
    • by LWATCDR (28044)

      Maybe there is no real difference between 2 and 3.
      If you tell a lie enough you may start to believe it yourself.

    • Re:I wonder... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by jittles (1613415) on Wednesday June 09, 2010 @01:52PM (#32514434)

      A co-worker of mine just got back from a trip to Germany about a year ago to have his wife treated with stem-cells for Parkinson's research. It was insanely expensive, but it was done at a proper University type research facility and they told them up front that there was a significant possibility of it failing to do any good. The treatment seems to have failed to improve her condition, unfortunately.

      It was definitely a stretch for them to be able to afford it, so I hope the researchers at least got some valuable information from it.

    • by cephalien (529516)

      I suspect the reply is as follows:

      1. Nobody. No legitimate MD or PhD in the biomedical field is going to ignore the scientific consensus in such a way as to think that injecting people with untried, untested cells (that could just as easily turn into aggressive cancer) is worth it - simply and inalterably unethical.

      2. Probably not, for the same reasons as #1. I guess this is 'possible', but it screams of Jenny McCarthy -- education and knowledge tend to stop people from making such gross errors in judgement

    • by Daetrin (576516)
      It would be ideal if the FDA could come up with some kind of sliding scale of approval. Places that are actually doing serious work ought to be allowed to treat people as long as they're required to state the fact that the procedures are experimental and unproven up front. The FDA ought to have a fairly easy time screening out the cynical hucksters, but i expect it would be difficult to figure out who was a sincere crank or not, since that's probably a kind of sliding scale. The people who think they're lea
  • by DavidinAla (639952) on Wednesday June 09, 2010 @01:46PM (#32514338)
    Are there some charlatans out there? Of course. Are there also legitimate treatments that the U.S. FDA just doesn't recognize yet? Of course. Why is it a good thing to take away people's freedom to decide for themselves which is which? Experts are frequently wrong. If people have the money to pay for treatments -- even if some of us think they're bad ideas -- why do we have the right to tell them what they can do with their money? It's arrogant to make that decision for them.
    • But is it ok for me to claim that I have a proven method (just not FDA okayed) to cure cancer!!! ... and later, after you pay me a couple $100k, you find out there was no proof afterall and nobody has been cured?

      It's like me selling you a bridge somewhere. I have proof that I own it. You buy it. You find out I didn't actually have what I told you I had. You would sue me. It would be fraud.

      I'm not saying legit treatments should be cracked down on, but anyone claiming something - to get you to buy it - w

    • by PopeRatzo (965947) * on Wednesday June 09, 2010 @02:07PM (#32514644) Homepage Journal

      Are there also legitimate treatments that the U.S. FDA just doesn't recognize yet? Of course.

      Can you give us some examples?

      I'm not doubting you, I'm just curious which ones come to mind. I know people who have diseases for which the current treatments are not really effective or have side-effects as bad as the disease, such as Hepatitis C. They've taken responsibility for their own treatment and seem to be doing pretty well. At the same time, regular consumers, much less sick and desperate people, don't really have the ability to determine who the charlatans are. So a system like the FDA, which is obviously imperfect, is really pretty necessary. The trick is to prevent the kind of corporate interference into the regulating body that we've seen with safety in the energy industry. A two year ban on any FDA employee taking a job with a Pharma isn't nearly enough. Hell, we've got people from the pharmaceutical industry writing the regulations just like we've got employees of the oil industry or coal industry or automotive industry writing the regs that govern those industries.

      Forget "church and state". We need a separation of "corporation and state". We need a much more adversarial setup in our regulatory regime.

      • You need some kind of certifying agency to distinguish between "good" and "bad" treatments, which can work equally well as a public or private organization with no authority beyond withholding certification (ignoring the negative externalities of the public approach). You do not need an organization like the FDA with the legal authority to ban anything it doesn't deign to certify.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by phantomfive (622387)

        A two year ban on any FDA employee taking a job with a Pharma isn't nearly enough. Hell, we've got people from the pharmaceutical industry writing the regulations just like we've got employees of the oil industry or coal industry or automotive industry writing the regs that govern those industries.

        You basically have a choice, either someone from the industry writes the regulations, or someone who has no clue writes the regulations. Would you like a non-programmer to write style guidelines for Java at your company?

        Personally, I think the best way is to have two people write it, one who is an advocate for the consumer, and one who knows the industry. The advocate for the consumer can set basic rules that everyone can agree on (don't be fraudulent, make sure there is a quick way to plug a well in ca

        • by PopeRatzo (965947) *

          Personally, I think the best way is to have two people write it, one who is an advocate for the consumer, and one who knows the industry.

          Why should "the industry" have any input into regulation at all?

          Remember, corporations are single-purpose entities: profit no matter what. They exist to serve shareholders who don't care how the profits come in. They have no allegiance to society, to nation, to consumers. In fact, as we've learned in countless examples, they will gladly harm their customers or the natio

          • You seem to be of the opinion that corporations, or companies, are generally useless. If that is your opinion, you are completely naive, and should go take an economics class and learn something.
        • by PopeRatzo (965947) *

          Would you like a non-programmer to write style guidelines for Java at your company?

          Would you want Microsoft writing the software-purchasing guidelines for your company?

          Do you want Pfizer to write the guidelines on when a drug is safe and effective?

          Especially in health care, there's an entire specialty for MD/PhD's who do this kind of work in the public interest. We just have to make sure they can't go to work for one of the industries they regulate for a significant period of time after the regulation goe

          • Especially in health care, there's an entire specialty for MD/PhD's who do this kind of work in the public interest. We just have to make sure they can't go to work for one of the industries they regulate for a significant period of time after the regulation goes into effect.

            Better pay them a lot, then. Otherwise you'll just get sucky ones to work for you.

      • by lgw (121541)

        Government regulation of industry always moves towards big company regulation to keep newcomers out without being inconvenienced themselves. That's just the nature of regulation. Sure, if you can change human nature you might be able to change this too, but in the meantime it's best seen as a law of nature.

        A large company affected by a regulatory body will devote people full time to studying regulations, finding the easiest ways to comply, and suggesting to lawmakers ways the shape laws such that the goal

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by caitsith01 (606117)

        Here's an example.

        Crohn's Disease is an inflammatory bowel disease. It presents in the form of parts of your digestive system being arbitrarily damaged by your body, seemingly in some kind of misplaced immune system response. This means ulcers, scarring, and a breakdown in effectiveness of whichever part or parts of the system are affected. It can occur anywhere from where food goes in to where waste comes out.

        Doctors don't really know what causes it, and don't really know how to treat it.

        Current theorie

    • If people have the money to pay for [XXXX] -- even if some of us think they're bad ideas -- why do we have the right to tell them what they can do with their money?

      Because most societies have determined that fraud is a crime; people also have a right to make informed decisions about where they spend their money. Fraudsters deliberately misinform people in order to separate them from their money. Besides, "buyer beware" really isn't a very strong mantra for freedom.

      • Because most societies have determined that fraud is a crime; people also have a right to make informed decisions about where they spend their money. Fraudsters deliberately misinform people in order to separate them from their money.

        People also have a right to make uninformed decisions. Whether they are "informed enough" is their own business, and none of yours. Misinformation is another matter; if fraud is involved then, by all means, feel free to seek the return of any money paid along with compensation for any other damage resulting from the fraud.

        Besides, "buyer beware" really isn't a very strong mantra for freedom.

        It is when the alternative is "you aren't allowed to do this even though you know what you're getting yourself into." If the problem is lack of information, or even misinformation, then th

    • by Abcd1234 (188840)

      Why is it a good thing to take away people's freedom to decide for themselves which is which?

      People *can't* decide for themselves which is which, because they don't have the necessary education or information to do so. Which is why people still fall for chelation, homeopathy, and other charlatanism.

      The free market requires equal information among all parties in order to work effectively. That is *clearly* not the case, here.

    • and they are preying on medical ignorance to extract money from the desperate. this is criminal, clearly

      it's not about freedom, it's about a scam. it is not compatible with any sense of morality to watch someone lie to people, then take their money from them based on the lies

      we are not all islands in the sea with the compendium of all human knowledge at our fingertips and solid fortitude of will when faced with a mortal disease. we are weak. i am, you are. we need help. and we have help: we are communities,

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by lgw (121541)

        Libertarians are strongly anti-fraud. If there's one thing libaertarians agree on (fundamentalist or otherwise), it's the sanctity of the contract.

        Community good, on the other hand, is often fraud itself. Politicians love to explain that even though this new law is bad for every individual person, it's good for "the people".

        Altruism is a very silly thing indeed to base any system of government or economics on, but that's a different topic.

        But then I don't know why I'm arguing with a post that looks like it

        • by spun (1352)

          As people have a natural tendency towards altruism, fairness, and reciprocity, those are in fact good things to base government and economics on. Because most people are not motivated primarily by self interest, that is a bad thing to base a system of government or economics on. In fact, because people only default to selfishness when they can not punish unfairness, and when people around them are being selfish, basing a system of government or economics on the idea that people are that way is a self fulfil

          • by lgw (121541)

            Whether altruism exists is an interesting philosophical question, centuries old. From an economic or game theory perspective though, it's not very important - economic actors can be modeled as seeking to achieve some set of goals, or maximize return when measured in some way. The model still works even if you describe those goals as "altruistic" and I describe them as "selfish" - those are just comments, not code.

            It also somewhat misses the point, as people are far more complicated than "selfish" or "altr

            • by spun (1352)

              Well, that is my point: the utility function assumed to underlie most economic decisions is not in fact the utility function most people actually use. People will, for example, accept harm to themselves in order to punish unfairness in others. In the dictator game, for instance, people will not accept offers they consider unfair, even though the alternative is getting nothing.

              While I agree with you that depending on altruism is foolish, our economic system fails to take into account the fact that the econom

              • by lgw (121541)

                I doubt the utility function assumed by modern economics is so simple as you assume.

                As far as what economic system to choose - ultimately we don't get to choose. In the long term, the economic system that provides for the most productive use of available resources will win out (or so it has happened for all of history): either an area sees the advantage of it's neighbors and adopts it, or doesn't see the advantage and is conquered.

                I have found people to be quite rational when it comes to economic decision

        • is often fraud itself"

          wow, just wow

          how can someone become so fucking deluded?

    • by _Sprocket_ (42527)

      Are there some charlatans out there? Of course. Are there also legitimate treatments that the U.S. FDA just doesn't recognize yet? Of course. Why is it a good thing to take away people's freedom to decide for themselves which is which?

      Because there are far more charlatans out there than legitimate treatments awaiting approval. And while I'm a big fan of personal freedom, there are some things that we are simply not equipped to determine. That's why I am not my own doctor (heck - even doctors aren't always the best at self-medicating).

      The herbal market in the US is rife with snake oil. And while it's all very nice to look at it as freedom, there's real danger the unwitting "customer" who buys in to these scams. Glymetrol is a great ex

  • Most of these people are cranks or con-artists. Some of these stem-cell clinics are not even using actual stem cells. However, we should keep in mind that none of this is a reason to not think that stem cells will not in the future be a viable method of disease treatment. Also, while the comment in the top-post about aging is in quotation marks, in the long run, it is good to view aging as a disease. Aging is not a good thing and is the root cause of many different problems. Unfortunately, aging is not a si
    • by k8to (9046)

      Aging is not a disease. "Curing" it would be a much larger problem.

      • by JoshuaZ (1134087)
        Why is aging not a disease? A common definition of disease is a condition that impairs bodily functions, with specific symptoms and signs. Aging fits that bill easily. Indeed, many results of aging we are already willing to label as disease. Most humans will get some form of arthritis as they get old, and that is a disease. Now, maybe you can argue that aging is a collection of diseases rather than a single disease, but that's a completely different claim. And yes, curing aging is going to be very difficult
      • Aging is detrimental to your health. Arguing whether or not to call it a "disease" is simple semantics.

        Would you care to enlighten us as to why curing aging would be a problem? Don't say "overpopulation," because that is an entirely different disease which needs to be addressed as well.

        • by lgw (121541)

          Death is sometimes the only thing that puts an end to accumulation of wealth and power. The ability to continue accumulating across generations through primogeniture has a well understood negative effect on society. If there were boundless new frontiers to escape to that might not be so bad, but I doubt you'll live to see us leave this planet even if you do cure aging.

  • The one place where stem cell treatment seems to have good scientific basis - joint repair, where stem cells are centrifuged out of fat cells and injected into the joint - is stuck in FDA human trials hell in the US.

    It works great in a number of animals, and is available for dogs and horses (at least) via vets.

    People? Nope. Go fish.

    • by cephalien (529516)

      I don't mean this in a harsh way, but you have no idea how clinical trials work.

      Saying something works in a dog, or a horse, or a pig, or a hamster is a thousand-fold difference from testing it in humans. We can test it on ten thousand mice and show no ill effects, but doing a proper multi-stage trial on humans can take years and years of testing, evaluation and follow-up.

      Why? So we don't have any more thalidomide babies. And even then, the trials aren't perfect. Remember Vioxx? That's just one example.

      Ther

      • Why? So we don't have any more thalidomide babies.

        And use of thalidomide to treat psoriasis, other autoimmune diseases, several cancers, ...

        Unfortunately, bureaucratic overcaution leads to not approving things that should be approved. Beta blockers, for instance. Delay there is estimated to have caused something like 300,000 excess deaths.

        But a bureaucrat gets dinged for approving a drug that ends up with pictures of flipper babies but not for holding off on one that would have saved enough lives to popul

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        I have an excellent idea of how multistage clinical trials work, and why. I have family members who were strongly affected by well known drugs that failed to be safe in general practice.

        The specific technique in question has worked in all the mammals it's been tried in. That doesn't mean you can just skip ahead to doing it in humans on large scale without trials, no. But it was having problems getting approval to get the trials started, in no small part because of the insane federal government stem cell

  • by RyanFenton (230700) on Wednesday June 09, 2010 @02:00PM (#32514558)

    This is not medicine. I'm a huge proponent of embryonic stem cell research - that is not what these places are. Even in the linked pages, they don't call themselves real medicine - more like 1950's utopian therapy centers, complete with watercolor art and messages of "the promise of eternal life." I've seen cryonics center websites that are far, far more ethical and honest about the product they provide. The second website even puts its own title in quotes ('"the clinic"') to avoid being as actionable about their claims.

    These sites are all about offering dubiously vague claims about what folks are saying about stem cells, then offering even more dubious treatments while standing behind the mystique of being a persecuted 'forbidden' super-technique. That would be fine if they were specific about what they were attempting, and if they could point to legitimate and active partners they were involved with in order to advance the science - but they're just namedropping the science to get the flim-flam magic appeal.

    There's an endless series of variants of this style of bullshit. Take a look at these sites for just the tip of the iceburg in terms of keeping an eye on it:

    Science Based Medicine [sciencebasedmedicine.org]

    The JREF Website ($1 million verifiable reward for any evidence of the paranormal.) [randi.org]

    Ryan Fenton

  • It's reasonable to believe that stem cells have healing properties, since that's exactly what your own body uses its own stem cells for.

    It's reasonable to investigate stem cells as a treatment, and to experiment to determine under what conditions they have an effect, and what unwanted side-effects the therapy may have.

    It's not reasonable to write them off as quackery just because quacks have jumped past the investigation and into using them as therapy.

    No serious country does that.

  • by bradbury (33372) <Robert@Bradbury.gmail@com> on Wednesday June 09, 2010 @02:25PM (#32514870) Homepage

    While many of the current stem cell clinics overseas do fall into the snake oil category one should not cast out the baby with the bathwater. If one understands the following probable guidelines, then one may be able to navigate the field.

    1) Non-autologous (non-self) stem cells are likely to be extremely problematic for therapeutic purposes because there have been a number of reports showing that the immune system will eliminate those cells over time (without immune system suppression). If you view them as "organ transplants" from other individuals which require drug protocols to suppress Natural Killer Cells and other arms of the immune system with significant probabilities of rejection then therapies which involve non-self embryonic stem cells or non-self iPSC cells might be useful. But they are never going to be a "good" solution. (This means that the debate over "embryonic stem cells" which blocked a significant amount of progress in stem cell research in the U.S. over 8 years was useless "noise".)

    2) Autologous (self) stem cell therapies *are* useful. One already effectively uses them in cases of storing sperm, eggs, blood and skin for future use. There have been common uses for decades such as for blood storage before a major surgery, growing skin grafts for burn victims breast reconstruction surgery, etc. Common heart bypass operations are another example of transplanting tissue from one region of the body to another. There has been a "Holy Grail" search to obtain embryonic or totipotent stem cells over the last decade due to the press/hype that they can "grow into any tissue". While we have the knowledge to do this for some tissues we do not have it for many more. Indeed one doesn't need totipotent cells for most therapies. Partially differentiated stem cells which are very close to the target tissue types will work as well, perhaps even better, than totipotent undifferentiated cells.

    3) While injecting stem cells into the blood and hoping that they end up in the right place and will do the right thing works in some cases (e.g. bone marrow transplants) it is *not* likely to work for most applications of stem cells. Each type of therapy where stem cells may be used is going to have to be a precise tissue specific (heart, brain, lung, hair follicle, joint, tendon, muscle, blood vessel, skin, etc.) therapeutic protocol. That is why one is likely to see dozens of companies with specific expertise and not "one size fits all" solutions. There isn't going to be a "magic bullet" -- therapies are largely going to have to replicate, typically through cell culture in a laboratory, many of the natural processes which occur during fetal development in order for therapies to be effective.

    4) There are on the order of 2300+ clinical trials in stem cells going on around the world (according to the NIH clinical trials database). Some of them are likely to be useless. But some of them might be quite useful.

    5) There are companies in the U.S. that are doing autologous stem cell therapies with a fair amount of success. Three that I'm aware of are VetStem, Regenexx and BioHeart.

    6) There has not been a widespread understanding yet within the stem cell R&D and therapy communities that stem cells *do* age. Simply, stem cells accumulate mutations in their genetic code with age which will cause them to function less well if sourced from elderly individuals compared with young individuals. [Everyone should have cryopreserved pools of stem cells when they were 10-15 years old.] So a stem cell therapy that might work very well in a young individual (say 20-30) may not work as well (or at all) in an older individual (say 60-70). There are methods that may be used to address this problem (disclaimer: I am the author of a pending patent on one of these methods) but they have yet to be put into practice by *any* stem cell clinic to the best of my knowledge.

    So one can "dis" current stem cell therapies as being snake oil, often with some basis for the feelings, but you should

    • The part I found disturbing on the stemaid site was that they claimed you could have embryonic stem cells for $15,000, but autologous embryonic stem-cells for $80,000.

      Yes, they said "autologous" and "embryonic" together. That, and the reference to the Rael book make me think there is something ethically aberrant going on here in terms of how they obtain said stem cells, and that they either don't realize about the Hayflick limit and Dolly the sheep's premature senesence, or they consider it acceptable risk

  • for my Microsoft. Boo hoo ...

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