A stem cell injection is a promising treatment for different conditions such as knee pain, osteoarthritis, and tendonitis. Learn how it works and how it can help you manage joint pains.
Stem Cell Injection | Promising Therapy for Joint Pain
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Stem Cell Injection: The Potential Treatment
Why is stem cell injection therapy an important breakthrough in the field of regenerative medicine? Despite advances in science, many conditions still have limited treatment options. Joint pain and inflammation, such as knee osteoarthritis, have been difficult to resolve.
This leaves many people suffering from knee pain, arthritis, tendonitis, and related conditions. An estimated 350 million people worldwide have arthritis, of which approximately 40 million are Americans. Luckily, with regenerative medicine on the rise, there are growing opportunities to heal patients with chronic pain and immobility.
One of the most promising of these advances is stem cell treatment. Because we have moved past the reliance on embryonic stem cells (ESCs), these treatments leverage adult stem cells types.
Medical teams can obtain noncontroversial stem cells during live births. Rich sources of these postpartum cells include the umbilical cord blood, cord tissue, amniotic fluid, and placental blood and tissue. Adult stem cells can also be sourced from a variety of locations within the body, including the bone marrow, peripheral blood, adipose tissue (fat), and dental tissues, among other sites.
Because of research advances with adult stem cell types, scientists are achieving substantial progress with these therapeutic approaches.
Where Do We Get Stem Cells?
To better understand the process of stem cell injection, it is essential we discuss the source of these cells. There are several in the human body.
Bone marrow is one common site for harvesting adult stem cells. It contains high levels of CD34+ stem cells. These cells are beneficial in their ability to “vascularize” an area. That means they can bring in new blood channels. These new vessels, in turn, carry nutrients and healing factors to the area.
Although this type of stem cell does not provide much support for building new tissue, it can support other stem cells to do so through a phenomenon called the paracrine signalling. Paracrine signaling is a type of cell-to-cell communication in one cell releases factors that impact the function of other cells. It is how cells “talk” within the human body.
Adipose-derived stem cells (ADSCs) come from fat. They consist mostly of mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs), which contain high levels of restorative properties. Additionally, researchers harvest significant amounts of T-regulatory cells. These help the immune system function as it should, rather than attack the body.
Amniotic fluid and placental blood and tissue are other rich source of stem cells. These stem cells are not sourced from the womb while the baby is gestating. Rather, medical professionals gather it after a baby is born.
They can either collect the fluid during cesarean sections or harvest it from donated placentas. These collection techniques do not raise the same ethical and moral concerns as other approaches, such as embryonic stem cells (ESCs).
Human umbilical cord tissue is another excellent source for stem cell therapy. It is rich in mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs). These cells work particularly well to reduce inflammation. They also help to modify the immune system. This is especially important for people with rheumatoid arthritis (RA), which is an autoimmune condition. The body attacks itself, damaging the organs. Preventing this occurrence in the first place is one of the best treatments. The same goes for other autoimmune conditions.
Prior to the stem cell injection, the laboratory cleans and neutralizes the collected stem cells to prevent rejection by the body. Stem cell therapy physicians can then inject them into the affected area, which helps the body begin to rebuild itself. Over time, stem cells can reverse acute and chronic effects, even on much older adults.
What Can a Stem Cell Injection Help With?
Had successful medial meniscus surgery today on shaded area in attached MRI type image. The tear was causing remaining pain in left knee. With stem cell injections already fixing patellar tendon tears etc, I’m good to run across USA in mid June and Antarctica later in the year. pic.twitter.com/boh0Lr1Imm
— Richard Donovan (@RichardDonovan7) April 26, 2018
Previously, people with joint pain and inflammation did not have many choices. Doctors might prescribe them anti-inflammatory medications or periodic steroid injections to promote healing and reduce pain. They might also administer hyaluronic acid injections (viscosupplementation) or recommend physical therapy or surgery.
These treatments, unfortunately, are not that effective. Although they are not invasive, the results tend to fade with time.
The same is not true of stem cell procedures. Stem cells can help to resolve a range of medical conditions, including:
- Knee osteoarthritis
- Rotator cuff tendonitis
- Tennis elbow
- Cartilage defects
The stem cells encourage the body’s own healing, as well as provide the building blocks for new tissue.
However, a stem cell injection may not work immediately, because it can take time for cells to exert their effects. In some cases, more than one injection is necessary. A physician may put their patient on a schedule or administer them one by one to see what works.
What Other Treatments Might a Doctor Recommend?
In addition to a periodic stem cell injection, physicians may also recommend PRP injections therapy. PRP stands for “platelet-rich plasma.” It is a common treatment in conjunction with stem cells because it performs a similar service of activating the body’s healing mechanisms.
With PRP, physicians draw blood from patients and then put it in a centrifuge to separate the red blood cells. The result is a clear serum filled with a platelet-derived growth factor, which jump-starts natural healing processes.
Since knee pain or tendonitis are a type of bodily “wound,” the serum can initiate effects that are similar to how the body will heal a broken bone or large cut. The body funnels blood and nutrients to the area. It brings in structural tissues, such as collagen and elastic. In a nutshell, it assists the body with restorative mechanisms.
For obvious reasons, this is useful when paired with a stem cell injection. It provides building blocks your body cannot access on its own. The PRP therapy directs resources to the site of injury, which increases the effectiveness of both treatments. The end result? Greater mobility, reduced pain, and a more functional joint.
Where to Access Stem Cell Treatments
The academic side of stem cells is, undoubtedly, very interesting. However, those with knee, shoulder, or joint pain will want to know how to access this therapy.
A few options exist. First, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) is a good place to start. It maintains a list of resources about stem cells. Readers can evaluate stem cell reports to determine the truth of many claims circulating today. You can also read FDA guidelines and warnings.
The NIH also maintains a search tool called, ClinicalTrials.gov. It is a database of publicly and privately supported clinical studies from around the world. It allows you to search for clinical trials by medical condition. It is valuable site for finding a stem cell injection or stem cell therapy, because it contains about 75% of registered cell therapy trials worldwide.
Other registries that can be used to find a stem cell treatment are the:
- European Union Clinical Trials Register
- Chinese Clinical Trial Registry (ChiCTR)
- Canada’s Clinical Trial Database
- International Cinical Trials Registry Platform
For orthopedic applications, Regenexx® is a company that offers stem cell procedures for treating orthopedic injuries, arthritis, and other degenerative conditions. With the Regenexx stem cell injection procedure, a small bone marrow sample is extracted through a needle and a blood draw is taken from a vein in your arm. These samples are then processed in a laboratory and the cells it contains are injected into the area needing repair. This approach delivers large quantities of stem cells to an injured site.
In addition to Founding BioInformant, I am patient of the Regenexx stem cell treatment. In my procedure, I had stem cells collected from my bone marrow and had them re-injected into my knee. I have also interviewed Dr. Chris Centeno, the visionary behind the Regenexx technology, about the body of evidence supporting the use of stem cells within the musculoskeletal system.
For system conditions, other well-known stem cell treatment centers include:
- Stem Cell Institute in Panama
- Okyanos in Florida and Grand Bahama
- Giostar (Global Institute Of Stem Cell Therapy And Research) in California and Mexico
- And others
Stem cell therapy is one of the biggest breakthroughs in medicine to date. In the future, it can do more than treat joint and knee pain. Learn more about it in this video from Life Noggin:
Education is key before embarking on a new course of treatment, such as stem cell injection. Armed with knowledge about stem cell origins, benefits, and approaches, it is easier to make the best possible decision for your health.
Have you had a stem cell injection? Share your experience in the comments section.
To learn more: How to Find a Stem Cell Clinical Trial?