Stem Cells are undifferentiated cells that have the potential to become other, more specialized types of cells. Stem cells are broadly categorized as either “embryonic” or “adult.” Currently there are over 70 proven therapies using adult stem cells, while there are none using embryonic stem cells. This is in part because scientists have had tremendous difficulty controlling how embryonic stem cells differentiate; they have a nasty habit of causing tumor formation, including teratomas. Adult stem cells, on the other hand, do not suffer from this pitfall.
Mesenchymal stem cells, or MSCs, are multipotent stem cells that can differentiate into a variety of cell types, including: osteoblasts (bone cells), chondrocytes (cartilage cells) and adipocytes (fat cells). MSCs can differentiate into many different cell types.
Harvesting MSCs for injection therapy is done right in the office. This is a painless procedure in most cases. Stem cell injections are most commonly used for the treatment of conditions that have failed or responded incompletely to other more conservative treatments. Conditions include, but are not limited to:
- Osteoarthritis of the joints
- Chronic partial Rotator Cuff tears
- Persistent partial tendon tears, such as tennis elbow, plantar fasciitis, quadriceps and patellar tendon tears.
- Partial muscle tears
- Meniscal (cartilage) tears in the knee
- Chondromalacia patella (patellofemoral syndrome)
Studies suggest an improvement rate as high as 80-85%, though some arthritic joints, namely the hip, do not respond as well (60% at best). Some patients experience complete relief of their pain. In the case of tendon and ligament injuries the results are generally permanent.
All of these procedures are not traditionally reimbursed by commercial insurance, so they have limited availability in most parts of America.