Knee Pain and Stem Cells: What does the future look like?
Medicine is constantly changing. The same is true for stem cell science and Regenerative Medicine in general. The knee has arguably been given the most attention in musculoskeletal and sports medicine as it relates to stem cell treatments.
Dr. Dennis Lox an expert in Regenerative Medicine and stem cell therapy comments that some of the current concepts considered new treatments are actually rooted in older techniques or has been around for a long time.
Stem cell transplantation has been refined since bone marrow transplants in the 1960’s for leukemia. No longer does a patient need a donor and immunosuppressive drugs with serious side effects. The patient’s own stem cells may be used, a technique referred to as autologous therapy.
Decades ago cartilage cells from a patient’s own knee were harvested and grown in a lab to greater numbers. Inherent flaws with this technique known as autologous Chondrocyte implantation, led to cartilage overgrowth in some cases, and an aging effect of the lab grown cells rendering their use limited to basically patients under 50.
Similar aging effects can occur with lab grown autologous stem cells. Now the FDA restricts this process considering it a non-approved drug therapy. Utilizing the patient’s own knee stem cells the same day without laboratory modification is not considered a drug and is allowed currently in the United States. Dr. Lox who practices in the Tampa Bay, Florida area and Beverly Hills, California states that different rules in different countries may dictate what type of stem cell procedure a patient has. Dr. Lox has treated numerous patients from Canada and the United Kingdom where their health care system is different and using the patient’s own stem cells to treat their own knees or another joint is not allowed.
A decade ago many athletes were turning towards Platelet Rich Plasma (PRP) for sports injuries. Famous athletes such as Tiger Woods, Alex Rodriquez and Kobe Bryant were in the news for using PRP. Now famous athletes are in the news for using stem cells for reported improved healing time and repair of injured tissue.
Dr. Lox has stated even more serious career ending injuries such as Avascular Necrosis may be treated with stem cells, not just meniscus tears, or degenerative arthritis. Many patients with knee arthritis wish to avoid a total knee replacement, and Dr. Lox reports that a frequent request for stem cells is to avoid knee replacement surgery.
Now, Regenerative technology has incorporated research that has been used in various other fields for treatment of the knee. Scaffolds seeded with stem cells from a variety of sources are being used and studied. Cells from Perinatal origins (Cord blood, umbilical tissue, amniotic fluid) are being used. 3-D bio-printing is also being studied to make new cartilage for grafting. The future is bright for improvement in the field of Regenerative Medicine in sports and musculoskeletal disorders. Not only is finding ways to help heal our bodies, and improve athletic performance as we age important to many individuals with knee and other joint complaints, the emergence of preventive and Regenerative Medicine will find an audience as more people understand the role of trauma and the development of degenerative osteoarthritis.