Stem-Cell Tourism 2: Set Bowel Disruptor to "Teratoma".

Danger, Stem Cell Tourists
A woman with kidney disease has died after receiving an experimental stem cell treatment [...] The woman suffered from lupus nephritis, a disease in which the immune system attacks the kidneys. When medications no longer controlled her disease, she went to a still-unnamed clinic in Bangkok where doctors said they could treat her disease using stem cells drawn from her own bone marrow. [...]

A team of Thai and Canadian researchers performed a postmortem analysis of the kidneys, and found no evidence at all that the treatment had benefited the woman-and they found strange lumps and legions at the sites of injection. Further investigation revealed that the masses were tangled mixtures of blood vessels and bone marrow cells.

Dr Duangpen Thirabanjasak, from Chulalongkorn University, who led the research, said: "This type of lesion has never been described before in patients, and we believe that this is either formed directly by the stem cells that were injected or that the stem cells caused these masses to form."

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15 Responses:

  1. So, like, did she have a particularly better alternative?

  2. ammonoid says:

    Not really understanding how stem cells would cure an autoimmune disease...I guess thats the point.

  3. gryazi says:

    Lupus is a shitty disease. A family friend is stuck with it, and the no-new-treatments-for-50-years thing is really a downer - unfortunately it's both way easier and more profitable for pharma to focus on giving old men boners.

    The trouble with "stem cells" being a buzzword before-we-know-how-to-use-them is that, even if they *will* magically crawl into place and differentiate properly (see: tooth guy, etc), treating a horrible genetic disorder with the person's own cells with the same fucked-up genome seems unlikely to be a win in the long-term anyway.

    I wonder if this particular procedure was as unsubtle as injecting straight bone marrow in there and hoping the right cells would live and die, or if there was anything more nuanced about it that could teach us something [we filtered out all the stem cells, but the mystery grow-up-into-marrow phlogiston slipped through!].

  4. rodgerd says:

    I kind of worry that this is going to turn out to be the equivalent of chucking antibiotics at things, and getting superbugs a few decades later.

    • fnivramd says:

      No, the likely worst cases for injecting cells intended to live in one part of your body into a different part are that they thrive and grow while remaining the wrong kind of cells, which is basically cancer; or the immune system identifies them as misplaced, attacks them and then attacks the original cells in the correct place too, a novel autoimmune disease.

      Although either of these options could be fatal for the patient, they don't make any difference to anybody else. So you get a few dozen (probably already seriously ill) people on the mortuary slab and mainstream medical science gets some free pointers.

      In a way I applaud these patients (when they're not kids or mentally ill) because they're providing data we could never otherwise have obtained ethically. This is similar to the inadvertent "no treatment" data we have for fatal or very serious illnesses which have an effective treatment. You could never obtain ethical clearance to leave even a single patient untreated as an experiment, it would be monstrous. But if a patient refuses treatment you get a rare chance to see the full progression of the disease.

  5. simoncion says:

    The legions->lesions typo has been fixed in the original article.