How Headlines Affect Perceptions of Stem Cell Therapy

It has been said by marketing executives that all publicity is good publicity. While that may be true in some areas, it is certainly not true in the arena of stem cell treatment and research. Stem cells receive plenty of good and bad publicity depending on the point of view. That publicity affects public perception for either good or bad.

The Advanced Regenerative Medicine Institute (ARMI) is very cognizant of the latest news headlines whenever they begin a new training session for doctors looking to offer stem cell and platelet-rich plasma (PRP) therapies in their own practices. They understand that headlines affect physician perceptions just as they do those of the average patient.

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The problem with headlines is that they are often written solely for the purpose of evoking the kind of emotional response in a person necessary to cause that person to read the article in question. In short, headlines are dominated by sensationalism. This is not good to someone interested in facts and reality.

Overly Negative Headlines

To better understand how headlines affect perceptions of stem cell therapy, we will look at both overly negative and overly positive headlines. We will start with the former. Examples of overly negative headlines include the many relating to a 2016 announcement by the Los Angeles Angels stating star pitcher Andrew Heaney would undergo Tommy John surgery after stem cell therapy proved ineffective.

The headline spoke of a “failed treatment” and Heaney’s stem cell procedure being a “failed experiment.” Further investigation would have revealed that stem cell injections are neither guaranteed to work nor always the appropriate response to a given injury. It would have also revealed that Tommy John surgery is highly risky; it can end a career as easily as reviving one.

Unfortunately, far too many people live and die by the headlines. They do not read information beyond the first paragraph to truly understand the details of the story. The result is that stem cell therapy can gain a very poor reputation if enough negative headlines persist.

Overly Positive Headlines

The other side of the headline coin are the overly positive headlines that give people the impression that stem cell therapy is a miracle cure for whatever ails them. We see this all the time. For example, we often see headlines that suggest stem cells could be a cancer cure. That may be true, but the headlines do not say that any such cancer treatments derived from stem cells are still years in the making.

These overly optimistic headlines give people the wrong impression about stem cells. They make people believe that stem cells have this magical ability to be manipulated in any way researchers see fit. This simply is not true. For every fact we know about stem cells, there are hundreds of others we remain ignorant of.

Stem cell therapy is not a miracle cure for every illness under the sun. It cannot be used to treat every sports injury that occurs among pro and amateur athletes. It will not cure cancer right now. Like every other medical treatment on the planet, stem cell therapy has its proper place.

The long and short of it is that stem cell therapy and its associated research, in reality, bear very little resemblance to what we read in the headlines. If people would make a more concerted effort to educate themselves rather than simply reading the headlines and moving on, they would better understand the benefits of the stem cell treatments currently available. They would also understand the limits. Both would definitely be good for patients.