Three Florida women have suffered serious eye injuries after undergoing experimental treatments at a poorly regulated clinic in Florida.
The New England Journal of Medicine reports that three women, ages 72, 78, and 88, lost eyesight after having stem cells injected into their eyes at a clinic in Sunrise, Florida run by U.S. Stem Cell.
The women all had macular degeneration, a disease which slowly makes people lose vision. The procedure itself sounds fairy dramatic. Clinic staff used liposuction to retrieve fat from the women's stomachs, and then extracted stem cells from the fat to inject in their eyes.
Before surgery, all of the women had some visual impairment, but could see well enough to drive. After the surgery, they are all severely visually impaired.
Two of the women sued the clinic and settled. As of yet, U.S. Stem Cell has faced no other consequences.
Kristin C. Comella, the chief science officer of U.S. Stem Cell, said it didn't need FDA approval for the procedure, since they weren't using drugs, but rather the patients' own stem cells. Although promising research with stem cells is occurring, the New York Times points out that these cases prove government health agencies can do little to protect people from unsafe procedures.
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