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Unproven Stem Cell Treatment Blinds 3 Florida Women

First Posted: Mar 16, 2017 05:14 AM EDT
Eye Treatment
A patient receives treatment before cataract surgery at Udayana Army Hospital. (Image for representation only.)
(Photo : Agung Parameswara/Getty Images)

There are new developments in the medical field every day. But new treatments and procedures are risky. These are something that more people should remember to avoid a situation similar to the three women from Florida who were left nearly or totally blind after getting vision treatments from a stem cell clinic.

According to ABC News, the clinic's method has not been proven effective or tested for human safety. Opthalmologist Dr. Thomas Albini of the University of Miami examined the women after their treatments and described the outcome in The New England Journal of Medicine.

Dr. Albini shared that all three had fairly functional vision before they were treated but were blinded afterward. One of the women became totally blind, while the others became legally blind. Their condtions are unlikely to improve.

CBS News reported that the three women, who were in their 70s and 80s paid $5,000 to be treated for age-related macular degeneration in 2015, and two out of three of them went to the Florida-based clinic because it listed a macular degeneration study. By Tuesday, however, the clinic issued a statement that it currently does not have treatments for eye patients.

Scientists have used stem cells for different purposes, especially in treating vision problems and other diseases. However, they are subject to regulations, and they issued warnings about clinics that offer unproven stem cell therapies. The clinic where these women did their procedures has such unproven studies.

During their procedure, they were each injected with a cell preparation derived from their own fat tissue -- an alarming move from clinicians, Dr. Albini shared. After further inspections, it seems that the women suffered from detached retinas in both eyes.

Stem cell expert Dr. George Daley, dean of Harvard Medical School, called the researchers careless, saying that it risks wanton misapplication of the therapy and procedure. He said it "is a gross violation of professional and possibly legal standards."

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