Stem Cells for Treatment in Orthopedics
Our bodies continuously rejuvenate and renew the tissues and cells that make up our organs, skin, joints, and bones. The cells spring to life, grow, mature, function, and then perish – and this cycle continues for the duration of a lifetime. In what ever body part this occurs, stem cells are instrumental in this process. Stem cells are naturally present in all of our tissues but, as we age, the numbers of stem cells decrease.
The use of stem cells in the treatment of orthopedic injuries can sometimes have advantages over traditional procedures such as surgery. It is less invasive, and it can be more effective for some orthopedic conditions, injuries, and chronic joint pain because it helps to stimulate healing, This is particularly helpful for cases and conditions that have previously not responded to other therapies. At Meier Orthopedic Sports Medicine (MOSM), our own renowned board-certified orthopedic surgeon and pioneering sports medicine expert Dr. Steven Meier and his experienced, highly-trained staff provide stem cell therapy and regenerative medical treatments for various sports injuries and orthopedic conditions in a wide range of patients, including:
Highly active men and women
Women and men suffering from workplace injuries
What Are Stem Cells?
Stem cells are often recognized for their pluripotential nature which is the ability to develop into many types of specific cells that divide to create new cells that perform specific functions in the body, including those in the skin, bone, muscle, heart, brain, and blood. In orthopedic medicine, stem cells can be used to restore tissue homeostasis and facilitate tissue repair and regeneration.
These stem cells, often referred to as mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs), are special, biologically active mobile units that can be induced to grow new tissue in the laboratory (in vitro). When they are used in the human body (in vivo), they can help repair injured or unhealthy tissue by communicating with a variety of other types of cells involved in the repair process and providing the necessary chemical signals or “medicine” to help mend and heal the afflicted areas. For this reason, some experts have suggested referring to MSCs as “medicinal signaling cells” because of this way in which they behave in vivo versus in vitro. In the body, MSCs provide natural anti-inflammatory benefits and can stimulate healing by identifying distressed cells and then influencing other local cells that play a role in tissue repair.
In summary, MSCs have the following properties in the human body:
- Minimize inflammation and pain
- Restore function of the damaged or unhealthy tissue
- Stimulate tissue repair
- Slow the degenerative process
Types of Stem Cell Therapy
Stem cell therapy is currently being performed in the community by using:
– Bone marrow aspirate concentrate (BMAC)
– Adipose (fat) tissue (lipoaspirate)
– Amniotic/placental tissue/umbilical tissue
The type of tissue used often depends on the preference of the medical practitioner. Bone marrow and adipose tissue provide adult stem cells that are autologous, meaning they come from the patient’s own body. Amniotic/placental tissue is allogenic, meaning that it comes from a tissue donor.
At MOSM, we prefer to use autologous bone marrow aspirate concentrate (BMAC) for a number of important reasons.
The MOSM Approach to Stem Cell Therapy: MSCs from BMAC
Dr. Meier prefers to use adult mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) from bone marrow aspirate concentrate (BMAC). Because this tissue is autogenous (harvested from the patient’s own tissue), it is readily accepted by the patient’s own body. And because both harvest and implantation are performed at the same point-of-care, this produces the maximum number of living cells, which greatly increases the chances that the treatment will be effective.
Autogenous MSCs vs Allogenic MSCs
Some practitioners use allogenic MSCs (which are harvested from another person, or “tissue donor”. Common allogenic sources include placental, umbilical, and amniotic tissue.
Dr. Meier recommends against using these allogenic products. While some practitioners use this method, probably because it’s less work, it’s not as good for the patient. Allogenic tissue starts off with live cells but because it is then stored for a period of time after being harvested, most of the living cells die off. So, the patient basically receives an injection comprised largely of dead cells that cannot provide the expected beneficial effects. Furthermore, allogenic tissue is riskier because it could expose the recipient to bits of foreign viral genetic material, the effects of which are unknown. Quality control has also been problematic with these products and there have been numerous cases reported in which patients have developed serious infections, particularly when they are injected into joints. Taking all of these factors into account, there is no justifiable reason to inject patients with placental, umbilical, or amniotic tissue.
BMAC vs Adipose Tissue/Lipoaspirate
Adipose tissue is a reasonable option for stem cell therapy. However, there are some drawbacks. Fat tissue does contain a high number of MSCs and the concentration of living cells is high since harvest and implantation can be done as a single point-of-care. However, unlike BMAC, adipose tissue lacks many of the other cells that complement the effects of MSCs such as platelets, growth factors and cytokines. And while there is strong scientific research supporting the effectiveness of BMAC in numerous applications, there is a lack of research studies that deal with adipose tissue. We just don’t know what effects lipoaspirate has on the musculoskeletal system.
BMAC Is More Then Just Stem Cells
Another reason that BMAC is Dr. Meier’s preferred source of stem cells is that it not only offers a high level of live stem cells but also includes high amounts of many other therapeutically beneficial components aside from just MSCs. This makes BMAC a far more attractive option than lipoaspirate which contains only stem cells but none of these other important factors.
Supercharged Platelet-Rich Plasma
BMAC contains platelets that carry a myriad of growth factors and cytokines that are important in repairing tissue and fostering proper healing. In fact, the normal processing of bone marrow aspirate automatically includes platelet-rich plasma (PRP), which can significantly bolster the body’s self-healing properties. For this reason, BMAC is often referred to as “supercharged PRP”.
A Therapeutic Combination of Components
After BMAC is processed, the resulting separated plasma contains two additional components crucial to helping decrease painful inflammation: alpha-2-Macroglobulin (A2M) and interleukin-1 receptor antagonist protein (IRAP). In addition to relieving painful symptoms by naturally reducing inflammation, A2M and IRAP can slow or possibly even halt the progression of degenerative disease by improving the biochemical environment in the diseased or damaged tissue. This means BMAC is a highly therapeutic mixture of important components that work together synergistically.
Long Track Record of Safe, Effective Benefits
Among stem cell sources, BMAC is the most well studied and has the most scientific evidence to support its use. A multitude of long-term studies has been conducted that demonstrate the beneficial effects of BMAC in the treatment of conditions affecting the musculoskeletal system.
Using BMAC is safe and the potential risks few because using your own tissue is well tolerated and stem cell injections are minimally invasive. Furthermore, because post-procedure downtime is minimal, BMAC stem cell therapy is often a highly attractive alternative to surgery.
How Are MSCs from BMAC Processed?
Bone marrow aspirate is processed and concentrated by separating the fluid components through a method of spinning the harvested marrow fluid in a centrifuge, which divides the bone marrow aspirate into distinct layers:
- At the top is the plasma, containing A2M and IRAP.
- In the middle are the MSCs, platelets, and growth factors
- On the bottom are red blood cells
It is the middle portion that is separated for therapeutic use as bone marrow aspirate concentrate (BMAC). The red blood cells at the bottom are discarded. A2M and IRAP can also be extracted from the plasma and included in the therapeutic formula. The processed end-product is then injected into the patient’s joint or soft tissue for therapy.
MOSM Applications for BMAC Stem Cell Treatment
At MOSM, we apply BMAC stem cell therapy to a variety of conditions, including:
- Osteoarthritis and chondromalacia of the knee, hip, and shoulder
- Avascular necrosis of the knee, hip, and shoulder
- Meniscus tears in the knee
- Shoulder rotator cuff tears
- Bone fracture non-unions
- Degenerative disc disease of the spine
In addition to orthopedic stem cell treatment, we offer regenerative treatments including:
- Platelet Rich Plasma (PRP)
- Regenerative Injection Therapy
- Regenerative Therapy in Conjunction with Surgery
- Stem Cell Therapy for Chronic Low Back and Joint Pain
Contact Meier Orthopedic Sports Medicine for More Information about Stem Cell Treatment
If you have orthopedic damage or symptoms of degeneration in your muscles or other parts of your body, stem cell therapy could be the solution you’re looking for, particularly if other options have not provided improvement. Dr. Meier and his warm, friendly staff will provide a complete assessment of your condition, answer your questions about stem cell treatment and how it can help you recover from chronic joint pain or an injury. Contact Meier Orthopedic Sports Medicine in Beverly Hills online or call 310-777-7845 today for a consultation.
Next, learn more about PRP Joint Treatment L.A.