If you poke around on the internet, it isn’t hard to find cosmetic products touting the benefits of their stem cells. But buyer beware: An article in the August issue of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery highlights just how zany some of these claims have gotten — and just how little hard science is actually behind them. “Stem cells offer tremendous potential, but the marketplace is saturated with unsubstantiated and sometimes fraudulent claims that may place patients at risk,” explains author Michael T. Longaker in the EurekAlert! press release.
“The article was prompted by ‘worrying advertisements’ claiming benefits of stem cell procedures for facelifts, breast augmentation — even ‘stem cell vaginal rejuvenation,’” notes the release. “These ads claim benefits from procedures that have not undergone rigorous scientific evaluation — including potential risks related to stem cell and tissue processing and the effects of aging on stem cells.”
What’s going on here is similar to brain-scan-credulousness disorder (yes, I just made that up) — the idea that people find scientific arguments more compelling when they’re accompanied by an image of a brain scan. Just as people find neuroimaging captivating even when they don’t fully understand the process and limitations behind it (which explains quackish firms popping up with unsupported claims), since stem cells are something of a mystery to most of us, it makes it easier for the snake-oil salespeople to get in our door.