After 25 years of hype, embryonic stem cells are still waiting for their moment (MIT Tech Review)

For people who are touting that we are on the edge of singularity and LEV, this is the type of story that always tempers my belief in any very optimistic predictions on radical longevity… most medical “breakthroughs” take a very long time and the process of bringing validated clinical services to people is a lot more complex that people think. Stem cells have been hyped for the past 25 years, yet here we are…with few real services. It reminds me a little of the “virtual reality (VR)” market, an up and coming market that is always 10 years away from fruition…

Twenty-five years ago, in 1998, researchers in Wisconsin isolated powerful stem cells from human embryos. It was a fundamental breakthrough for biology, since these cells are the starting point for human bodies and have the capacity to turn into any other type of cell—heart cells, neurons, you name it.

National Geographic would later summarize the incredible promise: "the dream is to launch a medical revolution in which ailing organs and tissues might be repaired” with living replacements. It was the dawn of a new era. A holy grail. Pick your favorite cliché—they all got airtime.

Yet today, more than two decades later, there are no treatments on the market based on these cells. Not one.

I asked: is 25 years and counting a normal time frame, or is something amiss with this vaunted technology? To most of the people I spoke with, the agonizing delay is no surprise. That’s how long it can take for a truly novel biotechnology to develop. The initial human test of a gene therapy occurred in 1980, but it wasn’t until 2012 that the first gene fix was approved for sale in Europe. By that yardstick, stem cells are on track. Others concede that melding stem cells into medicine has proved surprisingly difficult.


Getting my first stem cell treatment this week. I’ve done my best to read as much on either side of the argument, and I figure that it’s worth trying. It’s going to be a long time until there’s sufficient data to prove it one way or another.


I hope it goes well. Stem cell treatment probably has the most promise of producing a Benjamen Button at this time. I am anxiously waiting for some results from you and other forum members before I take the dive. Also please share the cost of your treatment for us less affluent members so that we can save up


Yes, I’m crossing fingers. But, just FYI, I’m certainly not affluent. I’m getting my right knee injected. The cost is $4500, which is expensive, but I figure if it does work, then it’ll be worth it. The company also do an intravenous injections for the same price, but I can’t afford both. This is significant cheaper than anywhere else. I was thinking that if the joint injection was successful I’d go back next year for the intravenous treatment. I’ll make sure that I follow up and do a report.


It actually might be less problematic than knee replacement surgery. Because I am old I have known several people who have had knee replacements. In spite of orthopedic surgeons’ claims, not one of the people I know has had a 100% satisfactory result and the recovery time is lengthy.


Yeah not something I’d like to try. I tore my meniscus about five years ago and while it healed I’ve had pain in my knee ever since. I tried PRP a few years back and it helped but my knee hasn’t been right since. I’m really hoping this will help.


There is an argument we gradually develop a stem cell deficit. However, it is clear that part of the problem is stem cells not functioning properly. How big that part is is not clear. It may be the major part of the problem. Hence exogenous stem cells that then dont function are not that much of a solution. My view is that a major cause of functional failure is failure to differentiate from a shortage of nuclear acetyl coa.

Hope it works for you.

Did you see this part of the article:

I learned how pervasive the phenomenon is this spring when an elderly acquaintance revealed she’d paid over $7,000 in cash for an injection of supposed stem cells drawn from her bones in the hopes of treating a painful knee. Of course, it likely didn’t do anything. She could have saved her money had she read a pamphlet from the ISSCR called “Guide to Stem Cell Treatments.” Despite its title, which sounds like a product glossary, it’s a lengthy warning about scam clinics, explaining that essentially any stem-cell treatment you see advertised today is a fake.

ISSCR_GuidetoStemCellTreatments_June2023.pdf (4.8 MB)

Reading their guide:

The range of diseases for which there are proven treatments based on stem cells is still extremely small. Disorders of the blood and immune system and acquired loss of bone marrow function can, in some cases, be treated effectively with blood stem cell transplantation.

Doctors have been transferring blood stem cells by bone marrow transplant for more than 50 years, and advanced techniques for collecting blood stem cells are now used clinically. Umbilical cord blood, like bone marrow, is often collected as a source of blood stem cells and is being used experimentally as an alternative to bone marrow in transplantation.

Other tissue-specific stem cells may also play a role in tissue transplants that have been performed for several years. For tissues and organs such as skin and cornea, stem cells contained in these tissues contribute to longterm regeneration.

Other stem cell treatments are still experimental. This means that it has not yet been shown that this treatment is safe or that it will work.

It does look like when stem cells are injected they face the same differentiation problems that arise from endogenous stem cells. These are about the cellular environment and potentially also about the quality of mitochondria in the stem cells. I think the key issue in the cellular environment is IL-10 as this drives cells towards senescence (through the Janus Kinase, NF kappa B and SLC25A1)

Thanks! I Want to hear how it goes, I recently had a knee scope, tho clean up my meniscus, fluid and arthritis. I added the stem cells at the same time. My recovery was amazing. At PT they kept saying how much the stem cells helped. A very fit friend who recently had the same procedure was on crutches for 3-4 days then used a cane. I never needed the crutches and was playing pickleball 10 days later. Hoping they have good results for you also.

More news on Stem Cells… promising, but when will it become real?

I did my research and I’m confident that I received what I was told I was going to get. What I’m not so confident about is whether or not it’s going to work. But I’m a techno optimist, and like a lot of people on this forum I’m impatient and frustrated by how slowly things move. Perhaps my rationale for doing it wasn’t all that scientific, I tried to read as much as I could on both sides of the argument beforehand, but have to admit that I probably have a positive bias towards doing it. It’s hard to make a value judgement based on the market at the moment. I’m aware that there are a lot of unscrupulous actors out there and that this is a grey area, but I don’t see it as being all that different from taking Rapa. Lots of unknown, lots a positive data, but the jury is still out.
Here’s a link to a paper published by the lab that created the product. I was fortunate enough to find a clinic that works with the company, which meant I had to fly to Austin to get the treatment.

Topical Application of Purified Amniotic Fluid Accelerated Healing of Full-Thickness Burns, Negating the Need for Skin Grafts: A Case Report

They currently have an IND out for Long Covid and I’m hoping that it’s successful, because this could open up this kind of treatment off label.

Here’s a link to a brief interview with the CEO. I believe their products fall under the 361 HCP category.

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Yes - I think we all (or at least many, if not most) share this perspective; we’re optimists (and many of us techno-optimists), and we have a “bias towards action” - we’re the prototypical “early adopters” of new (longevity) technology.

This may be a net positive, or a net negative, we’ll only find out in the long term…

Please measure results and post.


Definitely. I don’t intend to sit by and wait for twenty five years to find out I should have tried this stuff earlier.
I’ll keep everyone posted.

Had stem cell on my hip 5 yrs ago…never looked back… but finds it har to find a Dr… who will do more for me… seems it’s a perfect cure… but cuts out replacement surgery… so no Dr will recommend it … of course

This is not about the time it takes to bring something to the market. A major problem is that using stem cells to rejuvenate the body is in many ways way more complicated than gene therapies. Gene therapies require simply changing parts of the DNA of cells. That’s way more simple than removing large amounts of damaged/old cells and replacing them with stem cells. Stem cell treatments have been available for long, but most involve injection of stem cells either intravenously or locally, and expecting that to fix your tissues is a bit like dumping a truck full of new fresh bricks in your back yard and expecting your house to somehow magically get fixed as a result. It’s way more complicated than that.

I don’t think so, unfortunately. They would need to be combined with a lot of other therapies for that. Laypeople fall for the hype and think injecting stem cells into the body is some magical solution just because the stem cells have ability to convert into all kinds of cells. That’s an overly simplified view of what needs to be done for them to be more effective. Stem cell treatments are available and have been for long. You can get an intravenous injection with mesenchymal stem cells, but the cells will almost all die within a few days and will generally not replace any old or damaged cells. Stem cell treatments still do have some benefits, but they are mainly caused by exosomes released by the stem cells before they die. The exosomes can reduce inflammation, have immunomodulatory effects and increase growth factors and have various effects, and while that can be beneficial for various things, like e.g. to help fix damaged knee cartilage, the benefits of this are highly limited.

We still have a long way to go until stem cells will be useful for actually replacing large amount of cells in old tissues in vivo resulting in rejuvenation of those tissues. I think the immune system will be one of the first area to benefit more from stem cell treatments since the bone marrow is much more easily manipulated than most other tissues. It is possible to replace significant portions of the bone marrow with injected stem cells, which, if young and rejuvenated, would contribute to rejuvenation of the bone marrow. Doing the same to other tissues is generally much harder.

A considerable problem is that stem cells made by the body dont differentiate properly. Why should those taken from the body and reinjected do any better.

I think partially there was this fantasy (that is still exploited by offshore clinics) that you’d just be able to concentrate a bunch of stem cells, inject them into an injured area, and they would just fix everything that needed fixing. But time after time, it just never seemed to work. The stem cells didn’t stay where they were wanted and they didn’t really seem to do much of anything special when they were there. It’s the entire environment of the tissue not just the quantity of stem cells. They seem to have limited benefit in orthopedic procedures but that’s it.

The Sinclair lab eye reprogramming result seems to get much closer by rewinding the cell states to earlier, more stemlike states and then letting the cells progress from there. In that case they knew exactly what to do to regrow optic nerve tissue even.

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And evenPrivate Health is useless … they’ve been using Stem Cells in Germany for 25years… but they work… I’m in my 70’s … I’ve had good results… but why should I be paying thousands for them

The difficulty arises, however, when the environment the cells are causes them to become senescent rather than differentiating properly.