Stem-cell treatment called 'medical hoax'

July 14, 2008 at 10:45 PM
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ST. LOUIS, July 14 (UPI) -- Pediatric eye surgeons at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis warn against umbilical cord stem-cell treatment for optic nerve hypoplasia.

Dr. Lawrence Tychsen and Dr. Gregg Lueder say they are alarmed over what they label a "21st century snake oil" scam -- recent newspaper reports of parents flying their children to China for umbilical cord stem-cell infusions for treatment of optic nerve hypoplasia, growth failure of one or both optic nerves during the first trimester of pregnancy.

The eye surgeons say parents can pay some $50,000 for cord stem cells extracted from the umbilical cords of Chinese mothers and their newborns and inject it into the fluid around the spinal cord of the American children.

The parents are led to believe by Chinese doctors that these cord stem-cell infusions are an effective treatment for optic nerve hypoplasia, a disease causing partial blindness at birth, Tychsen and Lueder say.

Although some parents claim improvement in their child's vision after returning from China, Tychsen and Lueder caution that no objective visual gains after cord stem-cell treatment have been demonstrated in any child with optic nerve hypoplasia.

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