Recent years have witnessed an explosion of stem cell “therapy centers” that purport to cure diseases, including many forms of myositis. These stem cell therapies promise to cure a myriad of diseases by using stem cells derived from patients’ own fat or skin tissue.

TMA’s Medical Advisory Board cautions against the use of such treatments, however, since there is very little scientific data to validate the claims that these stem cell treatments provide a viable treatment option or cure. Furthermore, there are risks associated with these treatments, including unknown side effects, the potential for exacerbating inflammation and thus worsening the underlying muscle disease, promotion of tumor and cancer growth, and unnecessary risks to patients from the stress of surgery and anesthesia. In addition, stem cell therapies can cost the patient many thousands of dollars and are not covered by insurance.

There is no scientific evidence that these induced pluripotent stem cells, as they are called, have any impact on the progression of myositis, and claims that these treatments can cure myositis are blatantly false. Favorable reports of their efficacy are based on purely anecdotal experiences, which have not been validated. In order to be considered a reliable and responsible treatment, stem cell therapies must undergo the same rigorous scientific examination as all FDA-approved therapies. They must be tested in a strict research environment through a properly designed, randomized clinical experimental trial.

Until there is scientific evidence supporting the use of stem cells as a treatment for myositis, the potential risks outweigh the potential benefits.

For reliable information about the use of stem cell therapies, see the International Society for Stem Cell Research. This organization fosters the exchange and dissemination of information and ideas relating to stem cells, encourages the general field of research involving stem cells, and promotes professional and public education in all areas of stem cell research and medical application.

See also this video in which myositis researcher Dr. Thomas Lloyd discusses stem cell and other questionable therapies at the 2017 Annual Patient Conference.