Patients blinded by stem cell therapy: more egregious than you imagined

The popular press (including high profile outlets like the New York Times) recently covered an article from the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) regarding three women blinded by what was described as “stem cell therapy” for macular degeneration, all by the same center. Harriet Hall ably covered this in a previous SBM post, but there is some interesting background information that I do not think has been covered elsewhere and is worth discussing. Most notably, it turns out there was a body of literature that predicted the tragic outcomes, but did not seem to have informed patient care.

The putative stem cells were introduced in the eye by intravitreal injection. A previous SBM article  provides some background on macular degeneration, and also described how science-based treatment with drugs delivered via intravitreal injection, has revolutionized the treatment of exudative macular degeneration.

The NEJM article never specifically identifies the stem cell

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