Stem cell therapy is a non-surgical measure used to decrease pain and improve function. Called regenerative medicine, the use of stem cells has proven beneficial for many orthopedic conditions, such as ligament, tendon, and cartilage injuries.
WHAT ORTHOPEDIC CONDITIONS BENEFIT FROM STEM CELL THERAPY?
Stem cells are used in joint pain related to local cartilage injury and arthritis. These injections will not cure these conditions, but they can offer much effectiveness and pain relief. Because no two patients are alike, each person will respond to stem cell therapy uniquely. This is a low-risk procedure, which is often used as an alternative to orthopedic surgery. A candidate for stem cell therapy is anyone who wishes to heal soft tissue injuries of the cartilage, ligament, or tendon. In addition, you may be a candidate if you have not responded to other orthopedic treatments for arthritis. Finally, candidates for stem cell therapy are persons wishing to delay surgery.
People of all ages can benefit from regenerative medicine therapy. However, you may not be a good candidate if you:
Have a chronic illness.
Have a current infection.
Have certain cancers or blood diseases.
Use types of blood thinners.
Have blood cancer that has not been in remission for five years.
In addition to stem cell therapy for joint and back problems, orthopedic conditions studied with stem cell therapy include:
Degenerative spine/disc disease
Hip and shoulder problems
The Stem Cell Procedure
Before you have stem cell injections, you will meet with your TRSCI physician for a consultation. The doctor will discuss your treatment options. The doctor will give you a physical examination, ask you questions about your condition, and may conduct some diagnostic tests. After deciding on stem cell injections, the doctor will discuss the risks and benefits and have you sign a consent form. Before the procedure, you should wash in an antibacterial soap, and wear loose-fitting clothes.
The procedure is performed in an operating procedure room. Once being positioned on the procedure table, the physician will obtain mesenchymal stem cells from your fat tissue. The skin is first numbed with a local anesthetic, and the procedure needle is inserted.
Recently, the utility of adipose derived stem cells has been shown for therapy of orthopedic injuries. To obtain fat cells, a doctor makes a small incision over the stomach or “love handles” and inserts a tiny catheter to dislodge the cells (fat harvesting).
Adipose derived stem cells are useful because more cells (10 million to 40 million) can be harvested in this manner, relative to bone marrow techniques. For many diseases and injuries, the number of cells used for therapy affects the success rate.
It may be possible that placenta-derived cells are used, which are obtained from a donor.
Efficacy Stem Cell Studies
Articular cartilage damage of the knee can benefit from stem cell therapy. Chondrocytes (cartilage cells) differentiate into many cell types. These stem cells can be injected into knee joints. Stem cells have been proven effective in many clinical studies. The injections were highly promising, but more research is needed at this time. In a recent study, pain scores improved in all study subjects with knee joint problems following the stem cell injections.
Adipose stem cells have been investigated as an improved therapy for orthopedic injuries, due to their ability to differentiate into different cell lineages. The potential of adipose stem cells to differentiate to restore chondral, bone, and tendon tissue has been shown in studies performed both inside and outside of the body. This technique has shown promise for restoring cells and the extracellular matrix of intervertebral disc, which could provide relief for millions of back pain sufferers.
Overall, study investigators have found that stem cell therapy is quite beneficial in orthopedic condition therapy.
Anderson JA, Little D, Toth AP, et al. (2016). Stem Cell Therapies for Knee Cartilage Repair: The Current Status of Preclinical and Clinical Studies. Am J of Sports Medicine.
Lim YW, Kim YS, Lee JW, & Kwon SY (2013). Stem cell implantation of osteonecrosis of the femoral head. Experimental & Molecular Medicine, 45, e61.