Updated: Jan 11
The ultimate goal in regenerative medicine or “orthobiologics” is to stimulate the body to heal itself. Stem cells are “building blocks” for every part of the human body. Stem cell treatment makes use of these young, “unspecialized cells” – cells that are not yet assigned to areas – such as the liver, brain or nerves to name a few. As such, they do not have a set function in the body yet. By injecting these stem cells into an injury, the aim is that the cells will transform into those needed for tissue repair. For example, stem cells injected into torn cartilage may grow into new cartilage cells.
Stem cells self-replicate by dividing to create new cells which may evolve into other types of tissues. Their job within the body is to keep regenerating tissues by producing new cells that can replace and repair old or damaged tissue. At its core, stem cell therapy works to trigger healing receptors within a patient’s immune system.
Stem cell injections have been used in the treatment of chronic joint pain, disc pain, ligament ruptures, broken bones, and – like PRP – osteoarthritis. Stem cell therapy is a natural, minimally invasive treatment that uses a patient’s own body to combat pain. Stem cells produce over 30 types of growth factors and are the preferred choice when tissues are severely damaged or there is tissue-loss.
PRP (Platelet-Rich Plasma) Stem Cell Therapy
PRP stands for platelet-rich plasma. PRP has been used as an injection-based treatment since 2005. Platelets are what allows blood to clot while the liquid in plasma contains proteins and growth factors which are essential in healing and tissue repair.
Different types of growth factors stimulate different healing responses. These growth factors prevent the degeneration of otherwise healthy tissue and induce stem cells to the areas that are slow to heal and in need of repair because of a poor blood supply.
When PRP is injected at the site of an injury – old, new, or lingering, it’s the platelets that accelerate healing while reducing any inflammation and offering relief from chronic pain. PRP has also been used with success in the treatment of osteoarthritis, arthritis, joint injuries, neck, back pain and has been utilized during orthopedic surgery to aid in faster recovery times. In addition, PRP can help with hair loss and skin repair.
In PRP injections, medical practitioners draw blood and then spin it down in an effort to collect both plasma and platelets. They are then combined. The solution is injected into the affected areas. PRP, which is made in the office from a patient’s own blood and one PRP injection has 5 to 10 times more platelets than normal blood. Results can last between 6 months and three years.
Amniotic Fluid Placental Allograft Stem Cell Therapy
Amniotic Allografts are derived from placenta for orthopedic procedures promoting accelerated healing and wound repair. This regenerative treatment has been shown to help in soft tissue repair and speed up healing while substantially shortening the time it takes for patients to recover from joint replacement and/or reconstruction or spine surgery. Patients are able to return more quickly to everyday activities.
Amniotic fluid allografts are derived from amniotic or placenta. Amniotic fluid, placental tissue and umbilical cord blood contain stem cells. Immediately after childbirth, amniotic membrane-derived cells are taken from the placenta. This only happens when volunteers donate tissue that would otherwise be disposed of. The membrane is harvested then cleaned and sterilized before being cryopreserved or dehydrated.
This type of stem cell treatment treats painful conditions such as osteoarthritis of the knee, tendonitis of the rotator cuff or achilles, sprains, tears, arthritis, fasciitis or bursitis, sports injuries, joint pain, lumbar and cervical facet joint pain, spine pain from disc bulges/herniations and other similar conditions. These therapies help with neck and back pain as well.
Amniotic Tissue Allografts are safe and effective and these injections have been used over 10,000 times in the United States with no reported adverse side effects. This therapy is steroid- free, using injections that contain naturally occurring anti-inflammatory agents of the body like hyaluronic acid and growth factors.- thus there is no chance of patient body rejection.
This is an outpatient procedure and in one study, 9 out of 10 patients reported pain levels of 2 or less after four weeks.
Lipogems Stem Cell Therapy
Cells within body fat contain regenerative capabilities that have been shown to repair damaged tissue. Micro-fragmented fat using the Lipogem system can decrease inflammation, support and cushion joints, as well as repair damaged cartilage, tendons or other tissue. Body Fat contains anywhere from 100 to 500 times more reparative cells than other tissues in the body. When injected, Lipogems can trigger healing at rates even more quickly than traditional stem cell therapy.
The Lipogems procedure makes use of stem cells which reside on the blood vessels within fat (adipose tissue). There is documentation describing the use of fat to accelerate healing of battle wounds as far back as World War I. Additionally, research has shown that as a person ages, bodyfat maintains reparative properties as opposed to tissues such as bone marrow.
The fat tissue is gently harvested in-office from a patient by what is called ‘lipoaspiration’ That is, the fat cells are obtained.using local anesthesia to obtain a tiny amount of belly fat. Thorough mixing of this tissue results in reducing the size of the harvested fat clusters is reduced. This is then injected using ultrasound or x-ray guidance to ensure accuracy in treating the site of the inflamed joint or damaged tissue. It is a same day procedure using local anesthetic performed in about an hour with no down time.
Bone Marrow Aspirate Stem Cell Therapy
Bone Marrow Aspirate Concentrate or BMAC for short is another regenerative treatment that utilizes growth factors, proteins, and stem cells from a patient’s own bone marrow. Bone marrow is one of the best and easily accessed sources of stem cells, autologous stem cells, contain special mesenchymal stem cells and bone marrow contains a high concentration of them – critical in bone formation and regeneration of tissue.
These healing cells, injected at the site of injury or pain, can form other healing cell types, including cartilage and bone. They are used to treat pain related to joint, ligament, muscle, and tendon problems.
Bone marrow is removed from the iliac crest – a patient’s own hip bone – by a simple procedure. The bone marrow aspirate is then concentrated in a centrifuge and the product is then injected into the area of the body being treated under image guidance (ultrasound or X-ray) the same day. The procedure usually takes under an hour. Some patients experience a small amount of pain during the procedure and strenuous activities should be avoided for one week. Most patients return to daily activities the very next day. After several weeks, patients notice an overall reduction in pain and improved function.
All these treatments involve injections and may be used to treat the same conditions. Since these treatments all use natural tissues that already exist within the body, they are not considered drugs. Regenerative medicine can help to reduce chronic pain, improve healing of injuries or diseases affecting joints in a patient’s knees, shoulders and spine with the aim of improving mobility and quality of life.
Stem Cell Therapies are minimally invasive, non-surgical methodologies and approaches. These therapies are viable options for anyone suffering from joint arthritis, back pain or disc problems, ligament issues, and chronic tendon pain from tendonitis or tendinopathy.
Changes in lifestyle, pain meds or topical treatments, and surgery have until this point been the only treatment options for chronic back and joint pain. With these cutting-edge “orthobiologic” therapies, a less invasive option to traditional treatments now exists. Factors that can affect stem cell response include age and fitness level and most patients will feel positive results within one to two weeks.