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January 12, 2009

There Is No Evidence That . . .

Author Affiliations

Copyright 2009 American Medical Association. All Rights Reserved. Applicable FARS/DFARS Restrictions Apply to Government Use.2009

Arch Ophthalmol. 2009;127(1):94-96. doi:10.1001/archophthalmol.2008.517

In March 2008, National Public Radio featured a story about a “medical breakthrough.” It focused on a girl from the United States with congenital bilateral optic nerve hypoplasia who went to China to receive experimental intravenous injections of embryonic umbilical cord stem cells for a cost of more than $20 000. The physicians in China said the child's vision was improving, despite the fact that the parents themselves saw no change in her visual function. They did, however, think their daughter's pupils were dilating “to let in more light.” National Public Radio subsequently interviewed various US experts who outlined their reservations about this treatment, stating among other things, “There is no evidence this treatment works.” Subsequently there was a flurry of commentary in the mainstream media and on the Internet. I was inundated with queries from patients who learned of the story. I also received numerous e-mails from colleagues indicating they were similarly inundated and wanted to know how to respond to the inquiries.

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