NEW YORK — Three women were left nearly or totally blind by a vision treatment at a stem cell clinic, in what doctors call a dramatic illustration of how risky such clinics can be.

The clinic’s method hasn’t been proven effective or tested for safety in people, said ophthalmologist Dr. Thomas Albini of the University of Miami. He and colleagues, who examined the women after their treatments at a Florida clinic, described the outcome in Thursday’s New England Journal of Medicine.

“These women had fairly functional vision prior to the procedure… and were blinded by the next day,” Albini said in an interview.

One woman is totally blind and the others legally blind, and it’s very unlikely their vision will improve, he said.

Scientists have long studied the use of stem cells, including those taken from a patient’s own body, for treating vision problems and a variety of other diseases. But they and regulators have also issued warnings about clinics that offer unproven stem cell therapies.

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