NewsTeam 10 Investigates


Warning about stem cell treatments and COVID-19

Posted at 6:03 PM, May 19, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-19 21:03:40-04

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) — With the search for a coronavirus cure, researchers say unproven stem cell products are being pushed as treatment for COVID-19.

"I think these businesses kind of tap into very vulnerable populations. People who are looking for help, maybe they’re hopeful, maybe they’re desperate," said Leigh Turner, a bioethicist at the University of Minnesota.

Turner has been studying the direct-to-consumer marketing of stem cell therapies and related products for nearly a decade.

His recent paper about "Preying on Public Fears and Anxieties in a Pandemic" recently appeared in the journal Cell Stem Cell. He focused on businesses that were making marketing representations that were not compliant with federal law.

"They’re not accurate. They’re not evidence-based," Turner said.

His research said that businesses make vague claims on their websites about stem cell treatments for COVID-19. He mentioned one Southern California anti-aging clinic that used YouTube videos to promote "stem cell exosome" products that were shipped to clients’ homes.

Turner also wrote about an Arizona regenerative medicine that advertised stem cell therapy as a "precautionary measure" for preventing COVID-19.

"I think it’s both illegal and unethical," Turner said.

The FDA has sent letters to businesses in several states warning them about their unsubstantiated claims of coronavirus prevention and treatment.

"Do everything you can to avoid being scammed because this is a moment where there are a lot of people out there trying to do helpful things in all kinds of ways, but there are other individuals who see this as an opportunity to make money," Turner said.