Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Gordie Howe victim of a marketing gimmick

Gordie Howe was a great Canadian hockey player, and a great ambassador for the game since his retirement. The hockey world was saddened to hear of his heart-attacks last year.
Since then, though, Howe has made a remarkable recovery, some would even say miraculous. Howe, now 86 years old, still suffers from dementia, and has not himself made any claims of any sort, but his family and his doctors are talking extensively about his newfound mobility and weight gain, and attributing them exclusively to the expensive stem cell treatment Howe has been receiving at a private clinic in Tijuana, Mexico. The word "miracle" is bandied about with gay abandon in their press releases.
Stem cells have been touted as a medical panacea and miracle cure since their initial discovery back in the 1960s. In fact, although their theoretical potential seems almost infinite, espcially in such areas as spinal cord injuries, Parkinson's disease and multiple sclerosis, they have only actually been successfully used to treat certain blood diseases, most notably leukemia. Any other successes, including Gordie Howe's "miraculous" stroke recovery, remain purely anecdotal and unproven.
Mr. Howe has also been receiving the very best in speech therapy, physical therapy and occupational therapy, all of which are known to aid in the recovery of stroke victims, who regularly report abrupt and often unforeseen improvements in conditions. Stem cell therapy, on the other hand, has NEVER shown such significant and beneficial effects in properly-monitored clinical trials, however much we might like to wish.
The situation becomes slightly clearer when it is further explained that neither Howe nor his family actually sought out the stem cell treatment. Rather, the $20,000 treatment was offered gratis by an American stem cell manufacturer, and the procedure was adminstered in Mexico because such treatments remain unlicensed in both America and Canada.
So, think of it as a rather expensive, but apparently quite effective, marketing gimmick. Don't, however, think of it as a miracle, scientific or otherwise.

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