Russia’s Controversial Stem Cell Trade

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Stem cells are all the rage in Russia these days, but not in laboratories and not without controversy.

Pharmacies in Moscow are stocking stem cell pills and creams, and scores of beauty salons and clinics are claiming to offer treatments with both adult and embryonic stem cells for wrinkles and cellulite. These treatments involve injecting large quantities of stem cells into the face and body, and proponents claim the treatments improve how patients look and feel. But in addition to being illegal, there’s no way for consumers to know whether they are even getting stem cells at all-even after paying up to $20,000.

To date, there is no scientific evidence to show that stem cells can reverse the signs of aging, but a lack of regulation and legal loopholes have both men and women from around the world flocking to Russia for these treatments.

But where are the stem cells coming from? Many believe the stem cells are being smuggled in from neighboring Georgia and Ukraine, where there’s a growing black market. Poverty-stricken women are paid the equivalent of $200 to carry fetuses for up to 12 weeks before they are aborted and sold to cosmetic clinics.

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