Reflex is pleased to announce that we will now be offering Stem Cell Therapy for knee osteoarthritis (OA). This breakthrough treatment uses the body’s own regenerative mechanisms to not only slow down the inflammation process, but also potentially heal damaged tissue through cartilage regeneration.
Research on stem cell therapy for medical conditions has been around for decades, with great strides being made in the past several years it has become a hot conversation topic. Stem cell therapy is part of the new field of regenerative medicine, which focuses on treatments that help the body heal itself and have the potential to repair damaged tissues that don’t heal well.
Every cell in the human body originated from a stem cell. They are the source cells (also called ‘progenitor cells’) that allow our bodies to heal and renew as old cells die, and one of their essential characteristics is that they are ‘undifferentiated’ – meaning they haven’t been fully programmed and can be stimulated to produce several different cell types. Depending on the type of stem cell, it can potentially become bone, cartilage, muscle, nerve, or organ tissues.
Stem cells are present in a variety tissues, including adipose tissue (fat), bone marrow, amniotic fluid, umbilical cord blood, and embryos. Due to ethical concerns, only adult stem cells are used for stem cell treatments.
Historically, the most common source of gathering stem cells for transplantation has been bone marrow. This form of harvest requires drilling into bone — usually the pelvis – to reach the marrow cavity. This process can be painful and may take a few days for a patient to fully recover.
However, in recent years a new source of adult stem cells has been identified which doesn’t require drilling into bone – since adipose (fat) tissue also has a high concentration of stem cells. In fact, there are 500 times more stem cells per gram of tissue in fat than in bone marrow. Not only is fat readily accessible, but harvesting adipose tissue is also significantly less painful than harvesting from bone marrow.
For these reasons, Reflex is excited to offer Stem Cell Therapy via adipose harvesting methods.
Osteoarthritis is caused by cartilage degeneration. Since cartilage has no blood vessels, it has very low healing potential – making it a prime target for stem cell treatment. Stem cells have the potential to help diseased or damaged tissue regain its function, as well as the potential to replace damaged cells.
When PRP is injected into the knee, it recruits stem cells to the damaged tissue, which may be its most vital function. Since there are relatively few stem cells residing inside the knee, the healing potential of PRP is severely limited by the lack of stem cells. With the addition of stem cell transplantation, a large quantity of stem cells are transferred into the knee, providing PRP a greater potential to orchestrate actual healing of damaged cartilage.
Since large, randomized, controlled studies have not been conducted on stem cell treatments in knee OA, effectiveness, and safety of this treatment is still unknown.
Although extensive studies have not yet been performed to prove its benefit, there are several physicians around the world who have reported favorable outcomes — including cartilage regeneration — with stem cell transplantation. Thousands of stem cell procedures are being performed each year around the world, and no serious adverse reactions or safety concerns have emerged.
The quality and potency of stem cells vary from person to person. For example, as people age their stem cells lose potency, so patients older than 70 are not likely to have the same results as someone who is 45. Chronic conditions such as diabetes may affect the quality of stem cells and overall healing potential. Medications may also affect the quality of stem cells. For these reasons, outcomes following stem cell treatment are unique in each individual.
As previously mentioned, there are no large, randomized trials proving benefit or safety of stem cell transplantation for knee OA. Therefore, this treatment is considered experimental and is not currently approved by the FDA. This means that the procedure will not be covered by health insurance at this time.
To learn more about Stem Cell Therapy and to find out if you’re a candidate, give us a call at (503) 719-6783 or schedule an appointment today.
This is a rapidly-evolving field, and Reflex is keeping abreast of the latest developments in the promising field of Regenerative Medicine. We will be providing additional information about stem cell therapy as it becomes available.