ORLANDO, Fla. - Stem cell therapy promises to cure many ailments, but Action 9 exposes the risks patients never expected..
An Ocoee woman claims a stem cell treatment caused her blindness, and consumer investigator Todd Ulrich reports she's suing a stem cell network with several affiliated clinics in Florida.
Doris Tyler now plays the piano from memory and relies on her hearing. Since losing her sight, there's a lot she can't do anymore.
She blames her blindness on stem cell therapy.
“I can't see my grandchildren,” said Tyler as she held back tears. “Can’t see them growing up. I can't see them playing ball or cheerleading.”
Macular degeneration had left her visually impaired. That's why Tyler and her husband, Don, embraced stem cell treatment using her body's own regenerative cells to heal her eyes.
“My sight would either stay the same or it would improve.” Doris Tyler said that’s what doctors told her at a stem cell clinic near Atlanta.
The procedure used liposuction to remove fat cells that were treated to isolate stem cells. Then those cells were injected into both eyes.
Doris Tyler took a photo with her doctor Dr. Jamie Walraven four days later, before she went blind.
“What were you thinking at the time?” Ulrich asked.
“Oh Lord, what have I done?” Doris Tyler said.
Her retinas detached, and despite several surgeries, she suffered total blindness.
“Do you feel betrayed by the center that did the surgery?” Ulrich asked.
“Absolutely, yes. That they would treat her as a guinea pig,” Don Tyler replied.
“She was specifically told there is zero risk,” said attorney Andrew Yaffa.
Yaffa was hired by the Tylers to sue the clinic that's affiliated with the Cell Surgical Network. The lawsuit claims the potential danger far outweighed any therapeutic value.
“There's zero proof that cells harvested, isolated and taken from your fat can do anything for your eyes,” Yaffa said.
The FDA has not approved these stem cell treatments, and the Justice Department filed a lawsuit against Cell Surgical Network for experimenting on patients.
“It's the Wild West right now,” Yaffa said.
Doris Tyler's doctor told our sister station in Atlanta she could not comment on the lawsuit but did address some concerns.
“I am so sorry for what has happened to people that don’t get the results they want,” Walraven said.
Cell Surgical Network told Action 9 its affiliates treat patients with their own cells and no experimental drugs are used, but it has stopped eye injections since the lawsuit was filed.
“It's not worth that risk. Not now. Maybe in the future, not now,” Doris Tyler said.
Action 9 found Cell Surgical Network’s website lists two local affiliates, and there are several other clinics statewide.
Online there are consumers who say their eyesight improved.
But the attorney in our story represents three other clients who say similar treatments left them blind from procedures at a different surgical group.
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