Stem Cell Enhancers? What a load of bollocks

If my job was to debunk poorly justified herbal remedies, I would eat well for life.

Here is the newest one: stem cell enhancers.

As covered in the Scientist:

A California company is marketing the latest in dietary supplements, an extract from algae they claim will boost the number of circulating stem cells, easing disease and discomfort. Consumers have already spent millions on the "stem cell enhancer," but some stem cell researchers remain unconvinced the product even works -- and warn that the "enhancer" may trigger other problems, including cancer.


According to STEMTech HealthSciences, the product, StemEnhance, made from the blue-green algae Aphanizomenon flos-aquae, promises to "support your stem cells in maintaining proper organ and tissue functioning in your body." The product is marketed online and at least one distributor advertises with leaflets door-to-door, asking "What have your STEM CELLS done for you lately?"

Online testimonials of StemEnhance claim a range of benefits, including reducing hot flashes and heartburn, easing withdrawal from methamphetamine addiction, and curing chronic back pain. In response to a The Scientist Blog about the product, one customer and distributor wrote the product cured knee and back pain, and discomfort from kidney cysts. "Since starting this product-I no longer have kidney or back pain, I personally can go hours without urinating which before I swear was at least once an hour and my knees don't hurt when I get up off the toilet."


Anecdotally, there has been overwhelming evidence the product -- sold for approximately $1 per pill -- does wonders, Christian Drapeau, StemTech's Chief Science Officer, told The Scientist. In some cases, diabetics have ceased taking insulin, wheelchair-bound people with multiple sclerosis have walked, and Alzheimer's and Parkinson's patients experienced improved cognitive function, he said. "It's pretty clear it is a natural process of healing." (Emphasis mine.)

Of course they work anecdotally. Everything works anecdotally. Anecdotally, pigs can fly, the grass is actually greener, and Paris Hilton is really quite clever...much more than you would think from her media persona...I mean, she has really been misrepresented...when you get to know her you see how deep she can be.

Unfortunately, people would believe asparagus makes your penis grow if it had cunning enough advertising.

Oh, and this I love:

Drapeau said he has not seen any evidence the product causes harm, and is hesitant to produce too much data saying it works, out of fear the US Food and Drug Administration will revoke its status as a dietary supplement -- where it's available to everyone sick and well -- and consider it a drug that requires a prescription. "We have not yet documented in a rigorous manner the health benefits [of StemEnhance] essentially because they are so obvious, and I am concerned if we get data showing the product is effective...we will be in a difficult position with the FDA," Drapeau said. (Emphasis mine.)

"Well, we would like to subtly suggest that it works without actually saying anything definitive. We can't abide in any actual testing of that proposition because that would really screw us with the government." Disingenuous much?

Don't take this stuff. Even assuming it actually boosts the number of your stem cells...

1) That doesn't mean it will improve disease. Stem cells are not happy pills, and we still don't know how they operate.

2) Stem cell over-proliferation will probably give you cancer. For example, remember the FDA review they just had about using erythropoietin to stimulate blood production during chemotherapy. Well, that works essentially by stimulating the proliferation of blood stem cells, and the concern was that it might cause cancer.

By the way, here is my favorite quote from those hearings:

Earlier in the day, one member of the Oncologic Drugs Advisory Committee had asked: "What data do you have that this is not Miracle-Gro for tumors?" after listening to reports of several clinical experiments in which high-dose erythropoietin appeared to shorten the lives of some patients.

So unless you would like to subject yourself to what could be "Miracle-Gro for tumors," please don't take this product until someone can figure out whether it actually works.

More like this

Descartes is turning over in his grave: the mind and body grow more intertwined by the day. It's becoming clear that maintaining a healthy mind into old age isn't simply a matter of keeping the brain active with card games and crossword puzzles. Perhaps equally important is an active body. Physical…
The first report that gene therapy could enhance muscle in a mouse model was published in 2004. Since then, it has become of increasing concern that some unscrupulous athletes may consider gene therapy as a viable alternative to steroid injection (a term called gene doping) in the quest to enhance…
Innovation & Tech Today is a proud media partner of the USA Science & Engineering Festival. Committed to celebrating innovation and investing in our future, the USA Science & Engineering Festival perfectly complements the mission of I&T Today. In addition to covering the Festival in…
About four months ago, the skeptical blogosphere was abuzz about a tragic story. The story was that of a Belgian man named Rom Houben, who had been unfortunate enough to have been in a motor vehicle collision and suffered serious brain injury. That brain injury left him in a comatose state, which…

Stem cell enhancers do work. I tried them. One month later I noted less wrinkles, less gray hair, and body looked younger. My physical skills improved. I will try it again.

For 15 of 17 years of marriage my wife suffered from migraine headaches, arthritis pain, IBS, high blood pressure and high cholesterol.
After two weeks of taking StemEnhance every one of those issues are under control. I BELIEVE IN THIS PRODUCT!
I Have Zero faith in our government and of what they approve. Many FDA approved drugs have and continue to kill people...FACT!
StemEnhance is not a drug and does not need approval from the educated idiots that run this country.
Questions, call me 405-614-2103 my name is Andy

But stem cells are "natural", so how could they be bad for you? Just because some nasty scientists are trying to see if they have ny link to runaway cell growth (i.e., cancer), it must all be a big medicine plot. Stems cells are cute and cuddly and fuzzy - they know enough to make good cells, not bad cells.
In other words, quacks are using "stem cells" as the latest buzzword to separate hopeful or desperate people from their money. We could use an actual dietary supplement act that wasn't meant to protect qucks from the government.
Oh, and yo umay want to update your spam filter. See post above.

The thing that bothers me most about this posting is that Jake has not done any investigation - real life type - into stem cell enhancers. You are a med student - you believe in the FDA - the FDA which approved all of the medicines that they have pulled off of the market because they harmed and sometimes killed people. You're smart! Why don't you start asking for real life stories to back you up and if they don't maybe you need to go to a different kind of medical school, one that teaches holistic medicine as well.

That stem cells are important, I know from research. I also know from research that stem cell transplants have worked. But do stem cell enhancers actually do what its makers say? Do they really trigger adult stem cells to create new stem cells? In the Philippines, the multi level marketing sharks have latched on to selling StemEnhance and peddle it a a very high price (for standards in our country).

By Rosanne C. Romero (not verified) on 31 Oct 2010 #permalink

It is claimed that stems cell enhancers have been clinically and scientifically tested and investigated and that they have been proven to work. References, please.

By Prof. Ron Nielsen (not verified) on 21 Oct 2011 #permalink