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Doctors Question Perry's Stem Cell Back Treatment

Associated Press—August 19, 2011

He calls it innovative. Others call it a big risk. In any case, the stem cell procedure that Texas Gov. Rick Perry had last month was an unusual experiment to fix a common malady: a bad back. 
Perry and his doctor chose a treatment beyond mainstream medicine: He had stem cells taken from fat in his own body, grown in a lab and then injected into his back and his bloodstream during a July 1 operation to fuse part of his spine.

Some top scientists are questioning the safety and wisdom of Perry's treatment, especially because it was not part of a clinical trial in which unproven therapies are tested in a way that helps protect patients and advances medical knowledge.

It used Perry's own "adult" stem cells. Adult stem cells have long been used to treat cancers such as leukemia and lymphoma—it's what doctors are using when they do bone marrow transplants.

Perry, however, had an even more experimental procedure: stem cells from fat removed by liposuction and grown in a lab for some time before they were put into his spine and bloodstream.

Besides safety concerns, little is known about whether such cell therapies work.

Patients may believe cells helped them, but there's no way to know they did unless a study is done comparing those who did and did not receive such treatment, said Dr. Scott Rodeo, an orthopedic surgeon at Hospital for Special Surgery in New York. He was a physician to the USA Olympics Teams in 2004 and 2008 and is associate team physician for the New York Giants football team.

This story originally appeared at news.yahoo.com.


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