Buyer Beware? Professor Timothy Caulfield to Investigate Misleading Stem Cell Advertisements

Prof. Caulfield warns that Canadians are increasingly being exposed to ads that inaccurately portray stem cell research.

Priscilla Popp - 18 November 2016

Debunking health myths and uncovering scientific truths is nothing new to Professor Timothy Caulfield, and his latest project - Stem Cells and Misleading Marketing Claims - is no exception.

Prof. Caulfield has been involved in stem cell research since the late 1990s, and said that there is an increasing worry among researchers in Canada and around the world about the potential effects unproven stem cell claims could have on the public.

"It's heartbreaking to see the money people are spending on these unproven therapies," he said, adding that the public perception on the role and place of stem cells in the health care system has been severely damaged by false ads.

Prof. Caulfield plans to begin his latest research, made possible with an impact grant from the Stem Cell Network, by identifying stem cell clinics - many of which are advertised online - that are making questionable claims about the services they offer. He said this will help to pinpoint exactly what types of false statements are being made.

"It's a lot tougher than you think because there are so many of them," he said of the clinics.

Once the clinics are identified, he plans to explore legal and ethical regulations that should - in theory - prohibit the ads. The final report of Prof. Caulfield's findings will be submitted in a complaint filed at either the provincial or federal level.

Prof. Caulfield hopes that by exposing false claims related to stem cells, there will be a reduction in the number of misleading ads, which will ultimately decrease the amount of inaccurate information disseminated to the public. Reducing the number of misleading ads will also showcase the true potential of stem cells without exaggerating facts or making up research.

"Stem cell research is a very exciting area of research with great promise. I really hope we can change the conversation so that the public is kept informed, but in a responsible way," he said.