by Guest Author Joseph Smith, PhD
adult stem cellsOur very own stem cells may provide the key to return us to a high quality of life without chronic pain. Stem cells are undifferentiated biological cells that can develop into just about any specialized tissues.  No longer controversial as they need not be derived from embryos or cadavers, the modern therapy utilizes adult stem cells harvested from the patient’s own body, e.g., by tapping into the hip or leg bone.  This type of autologous harvesting involves the least risk as immune response is minimized and can often be non-existent.

The somatic stem cells circulate throughout the body and play an integral part in regenerating and thus healing organs and tissues at the cellular level.  What used to be the frontier of science fantasy is now available at innovative clinics and health centers where highly trained surgical teams use adult stem cell therapy to treat patients suffering from osteoarthritis, chronic pain, ligament or cartilage damages.

Adult stem cells are derived from the patient’s bone marrow.  Next, a unique solution containing platelet-rich plasma and the harvested stem cells is created in strict accordance with FDA guidelines. This healing elixir is then injected into problematic regions such as degenerated joints, ligaments, herniated discs, muscles, etc.  A cascade of self-repair activities at the cellular level commences as the patient’s own newly activated stem cells start to morph into the required cell types including osteoblasts (bone cells) and chondrocytes (cartilage cells).

Recent pilot studies as reported by researches in the science journals, Arthritis Research & Therapy and Transplantation, clearly suggest that injections of stem cells provides superior cartilage repair outcomes.  Patients showed rapid and progressive functional improvement with betterment of cartilage quality.  Specifically, this provides a “valid alternative treatment for chronic knee osteoarthritis” according to the scientists. Stem cell research may reverse the projected sevenfold increase in primary and revision knee replacements expected in the United States between 2005 and 2030 according to reports in the Journal of Engineering in Medicine.

What used to be the frontier of future medicine is now here.  Check with your community for the rare innovative, talented physicians who have embraced the new stem cell therapies.  They can provide their patients with additional alternative treatments to consider.  For example, instead of the old standard of  meniscectomy (a philosophy of tissue removal) that can often lead to increased risk of osteoarthritis, the better standard is the opposite – a philosophy of tissue regeneration by restoring the joint space and growing back cartilage to avoid the necessity of knee replacement.

References:
Nam H, Karunanithi P, Loo W, Naveen S, Chen H, Hussin P, Chan L, Kamarul T. The effects of staged intra-articular injection of cultured autologous mesenchymal stromal cells on the repair of damaged cartilage. Arthritis Research & Therapy 2013, 15:R129.

Orozco L, Munar A, Soler R, Alberca M, Soler F, Huguet M, Sentis J, Sanchez A, Garcia-Sancho J. Treatment of Knee Osteoarthritis with Autologous Mesenchymal Stem Cells: A Pilot Study. Transplantation. 2013 May 15.

Maclaine S, McNamara L, Bennett A, Dalby M, Meek R. Developments in stem cells: implications for future joint replacements. Journal of Engineering in Medicine. 2013 Mar;227(3):275-83.