In other words, they can become a cartilage cell, a muscle cell or a nerve cell, says orthopedic surgeon Anthony Miniaci, MD.
“They have a tremendous capacity to differentiate and form different tissues, so that’s the thought behind regenerating cartilage, regenerating nerve cells and healing any injured tissues,” he says.
The source of stem cells is found in your own bone marrow or fat or you can also receive stem cells from donor sources, particularly amniotic sources such as the placenta or the amniotic fluid and lining surrounding a fetus. These cells are not part of the embryo, Dr. Miniaci says.
“The number of stem cells that you have and their quality and activity diminish as you get older,” he says. “Amniotic stem cells, on the other hand, are from young tissue, so theoretically these are younger, more active cells.”
How stem cell treatment worksThe treatment team harvests stem cells from your bone marrow or fat or uses donor cells . Later on, your treatment team injects the cells precisely into your joint, ligament or tendon.
Theoretically, the cells will then divide and duplicate themselves and develop into different types of cells depending on the location into which they have been injected. For example, if you have damaged knee cartilage, stem cells placed near the damaged cartilage can develop into new cartilage tissue.
However, for patients with a severe loss of cartilage or no cartilage at all, a stem cell injection is unlikely to create a new joint, Dr. Miniaci says.
“Severe loss of cartilage typically leads to bone erosion or bone deformity, so a stem cell injection is highly unlikely to work in terms of reversing those changes,” he says.
It can, however, improve your symptoms of pain and swelling.
“The earlier you can treat someone’s joint pain, the better chance this has of working, making it less painful for the patient, less inflamed, and improve their function,” he says.
RisksThe main risk from a stem cell injection is in harvesting the stem cells. When taking the cells from your bone marrow, the treatment team inserts a large needle into your pelvis and removes some blood and the cells.
“Any time you make incisions or insert sharp instrument into somebody’s pelvis, they can have problems such as acquiring an infection,” Dr. Miniaci says.
“If you’re taking the stem cells from fat, you you can remove some out from under the skin,” he says. “Again, you have a risk for an infection because we’re making little nicks into the skin to get to the fat.”
Treatment is in its infancyWhile the use of stem cell injections to treat joint pain holds much promise, Dr. Miniaci cautions that this treatment option is still very new. Researchers need to study its effectiveness further.
“We don’t have a lot of data or proof indicating that stem cell injections actually repair the joint,” he says.
He explains that if you have cartilage or bone damage, stem cells can differentiate and produce bone and cartilage and tissues. So, theoretically, they could heal damaged tissue within a CONTINUE READING
CULLED FROM CLEVELAND CLINIC