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Stem Cells Today
November 1, 2007 9:22 PM   Subscribe

Stem Cell Treatment in China. A site showcasing Beike Biotech, a company that seems to be getting more attention nowadays, with a very straightforward approach. Meanwhile, some recent hard science.
posted by StrikeTheViol (14 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite

 
I, unfortunately, have more than just an academic interest in the advancement of stem cell treatments for neurological diseases. China strikes me as the last, best hope for many current sufferers of various illnesses. There are plenty of "clinics" advertising stem cell treatments for all kinds of ailments in Mexico and Eastern Europe. I suspect every single one of these places is a way to seperate the desperate from their money.

Perhaps these places in China currently are as well. But when the first real non-scam clinic opens up for stem cell treatment, I suspect it will be in Beijing.

How to find that clinic amidst all the scams is the real question. Too many desperate people are willing to grasp at straws to make it easy.
posted by Justinian at 9:49 PM on November 1, 2007


My co-worker's mother recently went to China for this kind of treatment to help with her parkinson's. Apparently it was a big success. I do remember just how anxious about everyone was, though...
posted by dopamine at 10:25 PM on November 1, 2007


I will be back tomorrow morn to thoroughly scour that site. I, too, could use some serious stem cell therapy.
posted by Soliloquy at 10:39 PM on November 1, 2007


Shame on the Chinese for trying to cure people! Jeebus will bless America for making sure sick people stay sick.
posted by Avenger at 11:58 PM on November 1, 2007


Anyone else get their Firefox browser hijacked by potential spyware in that canada.com page?
posted by junesix at 12:48 AM on November 2, 2007


Anyone else feel like we're entering Gibson-land when you can get experimental treatments on shit like major neurological disorders at cut-rate prices, with questionable ethics and qualifications?
posted by SeanMac at 2:59 AM on November 2, 2007


I certainly hope so.

The ethics of the FDA's regulatory scheme as it involves treatment of progressive or fatal illnesses is debatable, to say the least. Personally, I consider it evil hiding behind a bureaucratic face.

If someone is dying from a painful, progressive, and debilitating illness the FDA (and the government in general) will not let them try experimental treatments that may improve their health. It will not let them use effective palliative treatments in the form of painkillers. Finally, it will not let them seek to end their own lives as a last resort in the face of regulatory indifference to their suffering.

In essence, the FDA says people dying of awful diseases have one, and only one, right: to die painfully.
posted by Justinian at 3:14 AM on November 2, 2007


I actually work for Beike at their hospital in Hangzhou. I've been wondering when we were going to get posted here. One thing I'd like to point out before any abortion argument even starts is that we use umbilical cord stem cells, not fetal or embryonic stem cells.

If you want to read news stories about our patients, check out the News About us Section on the site. The Patient Experience section, has videos of the patients in the hospital before and after the stem cell treatments. The patient's blogs are the most popular part of the site. They are written solely by the patients and let you see what the personal side of the treatment is. They are linked on the side bar of the main page.

Perhaps these places in China currently are as well. But when the first real non-scam clinic opens up for stem cell treatment, I suspect it will be in Beijing.

How to find that clinic amidst all the scams is the real question. Too many desperate people are willing to grasp at straws to make it easy.


I don't dispute that there have been a great number of people who have used the promise of stem cells to cheat people out of their money, we are not a "scam" clinic and we are as open with our patients and the press as possible. Read the patient blogs. Watch the videos. If you would like any more information or are in China and would like to visit the clinic please feel free to contact me. Email in my profile.
posted by afu at 3:40 AM on November 2, 2007 [1 favorite]


afu: Where are the clinical trials? Beike's website lists only bench-type research in its citations section, and the only references to clinical trials I can find are uncontrolled or published in a journal I can't get to online, and also seemingly uncontrolled from what information I can get. Are properly controlled trials underway or already completed? If so, awesome, I look forward to seeing the results; if not, why not?
posted by monocyte at 6:25 AM on November 2, 2007 [1 favorite]


Monocyte - I can think of several reasons why clinical trials wouldn't be underway. Properly conducted double-blind clinical trials such as the FDA requires are monstrously expensive and chock full of all kinds of hoops to jump through. Who is going to pay for the clinical trials? Pfizer? Merck? Why? How would they get approval for testing on humans in the first place? Clinical trials also require a control group who get nothing but a placebo. How can a clinic like this charge people thousands of dollars for "treatment" and then give them a placebo? There are also the ethical questions involved in giving a placebo to somebody with a progressive or deadly illness.

Believe me, I want properly conducted clinical trials pronto, but relatively small entities like this are not going to be the places that do them.
posted by Justinian at 4:09 PM on November 2, 2007


(I'm assuming you mean a clinical trial such as the FDA would accept as evidence rather than a more broadly defined one)
posted by Justinian at 4:10 PM on November 2, 2007


Well, typically to pass the FDA one must show safety and efficacy, and generally there is a requirement to demonstrate that either one or the other is better than a currently available treatment. This is usually established through the complex and expensive three-phase approach to trials conducted in the United States. This is designed to protect patient safety above all else by a careful expansion of the pool of patients at risk.

Since the therapy is already being conducted in China, seemingly with minimal regulatory oversight, many of the checks introduced in the FDA approach are essentially moot. For my purposes, I'd set the bar lower: a simple demonstration of efficacy, as demonstrated by a randomized, placebo-controlled trial. This would be something like infusion + standard drug treatment versus mock infusion + drugs, using established outcome measures for Parkinson's. Demonstrate this, and the world will beat a path to your door.

I have to admit that I'm somewhat skeptical that Beike's approach would work out if tested like this. Stem cell transplantation for Parkinson's has been tried in the past, with some evidence of cell regeneration but no clinical benefit. Perhaps Beike has some kind of improved protocol, but again, this is something that the onus is on them to demonstrate; if they can manage it, again, path to their door. My gut feeling is that their approach to therapy is pretty much fueled on hope, much like the scamsters; the major difference is that the scamsters know that they're lying, while Beike doesn't know whether it's lying or not.
posted by monocyte at 10:58 PM on November 2, 2007


What Justinian says is exactly right. We have done some trials, but they were done to in China and probably wouldn't be up to FDA standards. Beike is a Chinese company, and the Chinese are convinced that the stem cells work. It is very difficult to persuade them to spend all the money on clinical trials just to convince skeptical foreigners.

There are clinical trials being run currently that are testing treatments very similar to ours. Dr. Wise Young, an expert in spinal cord injuries, is currently running a trial in China. Duke University Medical School also does a lot of work with umbilical cord stem cells.
posted by afu at 11:03 PM on November 2, 2007


This is designed to protect patient safety above all else

Whici is, of course, bullshit when you're talking about a treatment for a fatal illness. Okay so I have strong feelings on this issue.

Stem cell transplantation for Parkinson's has been tried in the past, with some evidence of cell regeneration but no clinical benefit.

Now this sounds interesting and on point. Do you happen to have a link to the abstracts? Or maybe just the names so I can look it up myself? I try to keep up with this sort of thing.

I have seen papers talking about experiments in mice where simple transplant of stem cells results in vastly improved clinical outcomes in severe spinal cord injury, but how that translates into humans or a neurological disease rather than gross injury is something I haven't seen much published about. Probably because experiments on humans are, of course, rather more difficult to get approved.
posted by Justinian at 2:08 AM on November 3, 2007


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