As a new regenerative medicine treatment without a well-documented research history, stem cell injections don’t yet have a standard treatment method. Most stem cell therapy harvests adult stem cells from the patient, which minimizes risks of reaction. Typically, stem cells are drawn from one part of the body to treat another, such as an arthritic knee, for example.
Called harvesting, the stem cells most often used for joint preservation and regeneration are called mesenchymal stem cells. Typical sources include fat tissue, blood, or bone marrow. Stem cells from fat tissue are harvested surgically or through liposuction, while conventional blood samples provide the raw material for stem cell harvests from the blood. Bone marrow typically is sourced from the pelvic bone in a process called bone marrow aspiration.
Amniotic fluid may also be a source of viable stem cells, but most stem cell therapy tends to use the patient’s tissue for best results.
Stem cells have two properties which make them suitable for regenerative medicine purposes. Firstly, they can easily self-replicate, that is, they divide and make copies of themselves. Secondly, stem cells can change into other types of cells. On their own, stem cells aren’t active in the body. They’re the building blocks that develop into useful cells.
The theory behind joint preservation and regeneration is that concentrating stem cells in the area of joint damage gives the body a concentrated level of the stem cell building blocks with which it can make more significant repairs. Combining stem cell injections with other therapies may prove even more effective.
The most common complementary therapy to stem cell treatments is with platelet-rich plasma, or PRP. Typically, a quantity of your blood is drawn and centrifuged to separate liquids and solids. Platelets contain growth factor hormones. These are thought to stimulate the body’s regenerative mechanisms and, in this case, the stem cells added to the site of joint deterioration.
Individual response to stem cell therapy, with and without PRP therapy, varies widely. Dr. Katzman usually treats patients with stem cells on a case-by-case basis.
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