Stem Cell Rip-Off; Moscow Beauty Salons Are Offering Bogus Stem-Cell Treatments for Wrinkles, Gray Hair and Other So-Called Ailments

By Titova, Nadya; Brown, Frank | Newsweek International, November 8, 2004 | Go to article overview

Stem Cell Rip-Off; Moscow Beauty Salons Are Offering Bogus Stem-Cell Treatments for Wrinkles, Gray Hair and Other So-Called Ailments


Titova, Nadya, Brown, Frank, Newsweek International


Byline: Nadya Titova and Frank Brown

Vladimir Bryntsalov, a Moscow pharmaceutical tycoon, decided last year on the advice of a friend to seek a treatment for the gray hair and wrinkles that come with being 58 years old. He had a potent mixture of human embryonic stem cells injected under his skin. It is a radical procedure with unpredictable results under any circumstances, let alone in a Moscow beauty salon. A few weeks later, Bryntsalov was as gray, wrinkled and tired as ever--and sported several pea-size tumors on his face. He began to doubt that the salon was legitimate. "They didn't have a laboratory, nothing," he says. "Who knows where [the stem cells] came from?"

Welcome to the frontiers of stem-cell therapy. Much of the world's collective medical intellect is being trained on these little cells, which appear in their purest, most powerful form in the first few days of a developing embryo. They have the unique power to turn into any type of cell found in the human body. Because they're so controversial, proponents have taken to hyping their promise as a medical treatment. The message that seems to have gotten through to people like Vladimir Bryntsalov is this: stem cells are the key to curing incurable human ailments. And if stem cells might fix spinal-cord injuries and Parkinson's, think what they'll do for baldness!

Stem cells, of course, are a long way from curing anything--treatments are at present largely theoretical. But that hasn't stopped about 50 beauty salons and medical clinics in Moscow from using stem cells in a variety of cosmetic treatments and other remedies, often under the guise of medical research. They operate unregulated by the government and often without adequate medical supervision. Many of them don't even take medical histories from patients, much less follow up on possible complications. By some accounts, those complications can be severe: tumors, depressed immune systems and blood infections. And the treatments have virtually no scientific or medical merit. In the worst case, stem-cell injections "have clear potential to grow into a malignant tumor," says Dr. Timothy Hardingham of the Centre for Tissue Engineering in Manchester, England. At best, the Russian doctors' practices are "close to witchcraft."

The clinics claim to be able to cure wrinkles, hair loss, dry skin and some dental problems by injecting what are claimed to be cultures of stem cells, taken from human embryos, under the skin. Some clinics cultivate patients' own adult stem cells--typically found in bone marrow or fat, they are much more limited in their ability to morph into other types of cells--and then inject them intravenously. A 50-year-old American woman suffering from anxiety and sleeplessness traveled to Moscow last month to Stem Cell Higher Technologies Inc. for her second $15,000 treatment in two years. It's a big expense on her $65,000-a-year salary, but "within two months of the first treatment I could finally rest normally," she says. "I could finally concentrate again at work."

Are the benefits worth the risks? In the absence of scientific studies there's no way of knowing. The American patient could be experiencing a miracle cure or a placebo effect. The risks could be significant. Aside from the possibility of infection, nobody really knows what stem cells do when placed among the tissues of the human body. No clinical trials have been done on stem cells as a treatment for wrinkles.

In a sense, Moscow is now running the world's biggest clinical trial of stem-cell therapy for cosmetic purposes. But any result is inherently suspect: in a true clinical trial, doctors would be gathering data according to a well-designed research plan. That's hardly the case in Moscow. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

Stem Cell Rip-Off; Moscow Beauty Salons Are Offering Bogus Stem-Cell Treatments for Wrinkles, Gray Hair and Other So-Called Ailments
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
Items saved from this article
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Search by... Author
    Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.