Unproven cell stem therapy causes blindness for three women in United States

An unproven stem cell therapy that involves extracting a patient’s fat tissue and injecting it into the eyes has caused three women in the United States to go blind.

The women, aged between 72 and 88, were treated in Florida in 2015 for the progressive eye disease macular degeneration, according to a report in the New England Journal of Medicine on 16 March.

They thought they were enrolling in a legitimate clinical trial, having found it under the title: ‘Study to assess the safety and effects of cells injected intravitreal in dry macular degeneration’ on ClinicalTrials.gov, the United States government’s website for such research.

Retinal detachment and haemmorhage

However, they immediately suffered complications, including retinal detachment and haemorrhage, which caused total loss of eyesight.

Neither the clinic nor patients involved were named in the study, which was co-authored by Thomas Albini, associate professor of clinical ophthalmology at the University of Miami.

Two of the patients sought treatment at the university’s hospital for the complications they suffered.

“There’s a lot of hope for stem cells, and these types of clinics appeal to patients desperate for care who hope that stem cells are going to be the answer,” Professor Albini said.

“But in this case these women participated in a clinical enterprise that was off-the-charts dangerous.”

Off-the-chart dangerous

The procedure claimed to use

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