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Stem Cell Treatments: 6 False-Hope Warning Signs

Unproven, Risky Treatments Mislead Patients to Seek Cutting-Edge Therapy

Real Risks, Unknown Benefits continued...

Many patients claim they are much better or even cured by unorthodox stem cell treatments -- including some who received the same treatment as Ben Byer.

The procedure he underwent was -- and still is -- being advertised to patients, who must travel to China to get the treatment. It's not advertised as a stem-cell therapy, but uses stem-cell-like cells from aborted fetuses.

"The doctor took the cells, nurtured them in a test tube, and then injected them in two places in the brain and in the spinal cord, way up in a dangerous place," Byer says. "Remarkably, Ben survived the surgery."

Not all unapproved stem-cell treatments involve such risky surgery. A common technique gets stem cells from fat removed via liposuction. That's less risky than brain injections but is not without risk.

Byer, too, thought the early improvement he saw in his son meant the treatment was a success.

"I didn't realize it was a time-constrained benefit and that in a short time, Ben would be back to where he was," Byer says. "And during that short time I set up a whole operation to send literally hundreds of people to China. Even when I saw the benefits diminish over four weeks, and in the weeks after that, I didn't believe it. I told myself he'd recover those benefits. Then I told myself something else. By the time I faced up to it, it was too late."

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Reviewed on July 18, 2012

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