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Discovery

299 EpisodesProduced by BBC World ServiceWebsite

Explorations in the world of science.

27:23

Stem cell hard sell

Stem cells are cells with superpowers. They can become many different types of cells in our bodies, from muscle cells to brain cells, and some can even repair tissue. But the remarkable promise of this exciting new field of medicine has led to a new booming market of private clinics, which offer to treat a range of conditions (from arthritis to autism) using regenerative therapies which they claim harness the healing powers of stem cells. In this first of two programmes, Lesley Curwen investigates this expanding industry in the UK and Europe and discovers that these treatments are often unproven, unregulated and can cause harm.

She reports on disturbing cases of UK patients who have suffered infection, blood clots and even sight loss and hears from orthopaedic surgeons concerned that these so called stem cell therapies are jumping ahead of the science. And Lesley finds out how these procedures, which often cost thousands of dollars for each treatment, are operating under a loophole in EU Directives which govern the law in this area. There’s an exemption and the actual stem cell material being injected into you, may not be regulated at all.

Picture: Stem cells are undifferentiated cells that can specialized through mitosis to many other cell types of multicellular organisms, Credit: selvanegra/Getty Images

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