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Arrests in US after fake stem cell therapies sold to terminally ill

9 January 2012
Appeared in BioNews 639

A professor of pathology and a midwife have been arrested in the USA, charged with illegally supplying stem cells for unauthorised use.

They are suspected of belonging to a team of at least four people who sold untested stem cell 'cures' to cancer patients and people with neurodegenerative diseases like amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), multiple sclerosis and Parkinson's disease. It is alleged that the team made more than $1.5 million since starting the scheme in March 2007.

Vincent Dammai, a professor of pathology and laboratory medicine at the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston, USA was arrested on 27 December 2011. Two other men, Francisco Morales of Brownsville, Texas, and midwife Alberto Ramon, of Del Rio, Texas, were arrested the same week. A fourth man, Lawrence Stowe of Dallas, Texas, has been charged and a warrant is out for his arrest.

An FBI report claims that Ramon, the midwife, obtained umbilical cord blood during births he supervised. He is alleged to have sold the blood to an Arizona-based company, Global Laboratories, whose owner, Fredda Branyon, was convicted last August for selling unauthorised stem cell products (reported in BioNews 622 - US lab owner pleads guilty to selling stem cells).

Global Laboratories then sent the tissue to Professor Dammai, who, it is alleged, used his university facilities to derive the stem cells. The FBI suspects that Stowe, who is still at large and considered a fugitive, then sold fake stem cell treatments through several front companies. Morales – who allegedly falsely claimed to be a registered as a physician in the US - then performed the unlicensed procedures at a clinic in Mexico.

The story was originally broken on an edition of CBS News programme, 60 Minutes, which followed several patients who had been approached by Stowe. One of the ALS patients, Michael Martin, lost more than $47,000 paying for a false 'cure' before working undercover to help the programme. His recordings were used in the FBI investigation and helped bring about the arrests.

According to the FBI report, all the men would face imprisonment should they eventually be convicted.

American scientist arrested in stem-cell clinic sting
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FBI crackdown on unproven stem cell therapies
New Scientist |  5 January 2012
Federal Indictments Lead to Arrests in Stem Cell Case
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Feds bust alleged scam to sell stem cells to the dying
Houston Chronicle |  28 December 2011
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NY Daily News |  3 January 2012
Three arrested for peddling miracle stem cell cure
Reuters |  2 January 2012
4 July 2016 - by James Brooks 
The authors of a study detailing the rapid expansion of unlicensed stem-cell therapies in the US have called on the FDA to act to stop thousands of patients being used as 'unwitting guinea pigs' for untested treatments...
19 March 2012 - by Dr Sophie Pryor 
A cardiologist in Bonita Springs, Florida, USA, has had his medical licence suspended after allegedly performing an illegal stem cell treatment on a patient who died during the procedure...
17 October 2011 - by Jessica Ware 
A US doctor accused of implanting stem cells into chronically ill patients pleaded not guilty at a court hearing on Thursday 13 October. Dr Ralph Conti, of Henderson, Nevada, has been accused of transplanting stem cells harvested from placental tissue into patients, at the direction of Alfred Sapse, who was falsely claiming to be a doctor....
30 August 2011 - by Ayesha Ahmad 
A US businesswoman from Arizona has been convicted of selling unapproved stem cells over a period of several months....
8 November 2010 - by Dr Jay Stone 
International journal Nature has found no sign of fraud in a 2009 paper published by Professor Konrad Hochedlinger and colleagues. The allegations came from a group calling itself 'Stem Cell Watch' which has made a series of accusations of fraud against a number of leading stem cell scientists, including Professor Hochedlinger, citing repetition and the manipulation of images among its reasons for concern....
4 October 2010 - by Antony Starza-Allen 
A doctor has been struck off by the General Medical Council (GMC) for exploiting vulnerable patients by administering 'pointless' and 'unjustified' stem cell treatments...
10 January 2010 - by Dr Vivienne Raper 
Scientist and patient groups want more safeguards to prevent clinics in the UK from offering unproven stem cell treatments, according to the Guardian newspaper. The calls come as a Harley Street doctor - Robert Trossel - comes before the General Medical Council (GMC) accused of misconduct, the newspaper reports. According to the Guardian, the upcoming GMC hearing will consider allegations that he offered, and made false claims about, stem cell therapy. Dr Trossel is accused of ...
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