What are stem cells?

  • Stem cells are undifferentiated cells that can turn into other types of specialized cells.

  • Stem cells can be obtained from the adult or the embryonic environment.

What is the big deal about stem cells in orthopedics?

  • There is a lot of interest in trying to figure out how to use these cells and place them in an environment that is damaged to produce a positive effect. Orthopaedists are familiar with joint injuries, tendon injuries, arthritis, etc. For many injuries, surgery is required. But, orthopedic surgeons are always on the hunt for ways to treat their patients without surgery or to enhance their surgery outcomes.

Are there other factors besides stem cells that may make a difference?

  • Yes. Many times when "stem cells" are injected, the patient also receives multiple growth factors that are with the cells, and often, the injection will also include platelet rich plasma as well. These other factors can also produce positive effects in the area injected.

Are all stem cells created equal?

  • No. There are differences between embryonic stem cells and adult stem cells.

  • There are multiple sources of stem cells and anyone considering this type of therapy should be diligent regarding the stem cells they are using.

  • Examples of sources for "stem cells":

    • bone marrow aspirate (from patient)

    • amniotic fluid (from embryonic environment)

    • umbilical cord (from embryonic environment)

    • wharton's jelly (from embryonic environment)

    • adipose (fat)

What should you do if you are considering stem cell therapy?

  • First and foremost, make sure you do your research to the best extent possible. There are many people in the community that are making false claims about their stem cell therapy.

  • Get an opinion from a physician that can help educate you regarding the appropriate expectations and different options for cell therapy.

Some recent publications on stem cell therapy in orthopedics: