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Stem Cells FAQ

Your Stem Cell Questions Answered

Q: Are stem cell treatments safe?

A: That remains to be seen. Potential dangers include:

  • As stem cells renew themselves and can become different kinds of cells, they might become cancer cells and form tumors.
  • Stem cells grown in the laboratory, or adult cells reprogrammed to be stem cells, might have genetic damage.

There is also risk in some of the procedures used to get stem cells out of the body (such as from liposuction or spinal tap) or to deliver stem cells to the body (such as implanting them in the heart, brain, spinal cord, or other organs). That's not so much about the stem cells, but because of the procedures themselves.

Researchers are studying all of that. Without carefully controlled clinical trials, there's no way to know what might happen in the long term, or even in the short term. That's why the FDA discourages the use of stem cells except in clinical trials or approved therapies.

If you are thinking about pursuing stem cell therapy, talk to your doctor first. In the U.S. and abroad, many clinics offer unproven stem cell treatments that have never been tested for safety or effectiveness.

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Reviewed on July 30, 2012

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