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Goldstein Investigation: Is A Local Stem Cells 'Expert' Selling People False Hope?

LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) – With claims of government approval, stem cells are being promoted as the new panacea for pain relief at seminars in Southern California, but is this "cure" legitimate?

Stem cell treatments in the U.S. are in the clinical trial stages. The cells can be injected in different parts of the body in the hopes of repairing and regenerating new tissue.

With hidden cameras, CBSLA Investigative Reporter David Goldstein went to a free stem cell seminar in the City of Orange put on by the Stem Cell Institute of Orange County, which touts the benefits of stem cell treatments on its Facebook page.

The seminar was conducted by Israel Matos.

"I'm a physics major from UC Santa Barbara," he told the audience.

Matos made a point to say he wasn't a doctor, but that didn't stop him from speaking on the powers of stem cells.

"Stem cells don't just mask your symptoms. They actually heal the underlying cause of your problem," he said.

Matos told a CBSLA producer who went undercover that the treatment is approved by the federal government.

"Has to be FDA approved, has to be. There's no way – we'd go to jail if it weren't," he said.

Matos added the Stem Cell Institute of Orange County is associated with UC Irvine, which has its own acclaimed stem cell research center.

Additionally, the injections aren't cheap – costing $6,500 to nearly $20,000, and not covered by insurance.

Ninety-year-old Jeanne Gallagher, who has problems with both of her legs, went to Matos's seminar – and then did her research.

[Goldstein: What did you find out?]

"That he's a television actor! I thought, 'Jesus, you folks.' And I started really getting mad," she said.

Matos starred in the movie "Christmas on Salvation Street."

If Matos is an actor, then who is the stem cell expert? Matos' slideshow pointed to Twins Chiropractic and Physical Medicine, where potential patients were told they could go for an exam. The business has four offices in Orange County, including one in Garden Grove. But none of them are located at UC Irvine.

Twins is run by identical twin chiropractors, David and Daniel Clements.

David declined to speak to Goldstein, but Daniel obliged.

[Goldstein: He says you're located and associated with UC Irvine stem cell. Is that true?]

"No! That's not true! That's not true," he said.

[Goldstein: Are these shots FDA approved?]

"No, " Daniel said.

Jonathan Thomas is chairman of the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine, the state agency that funds stem cell research. He said the hope is, one day, it will be beneficial in developing cures and treatments, but it's not there yet.

UC Irvine released the following statement to CBSLA Tuesday:

"The University of California, Irvine and UCI Health confirm that Israel Matos and the Stem Cell Institute of Orange County are in no way affiliated with the university, its health system or its faculty and clinicians.

The Sue and Bill Gross Stem Cell Research Center at UCI is recognized as one of the premier stem cell centers in the world. Its researchers are leaders in the application of stem cells to treat degenerative disorders and injuries such as Alzheimer's Disease, Huntington's Disease, retinitis pigmentosa and spinal cord injury. All of our stem cell clinical trials are FDA reviewed and patients are enrolled following strict guidelines and a full consent process."

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