Stem Cells FAQ
What are adult Mesenchymal Stem Cells
Stem cells are broadly categorized as “embryonic” or “adult.” Embryonic stem cells are derived from human fetuses, whereas adult stem cells are obtained from adults.
Currently there are roughly 75 proven therapies using adult stem cells, while there are none using embryonic stem cells due to inherent challenges in controlling how embryonic stem cells differentiate. Mesenchymal stem cells, or MSCs, are multi-potent stem cells that can differentiate into a variety of cell types: osteoblasts (bone cells), chondrocytes (cartilage cells) and adipocytes (fat cells). MSCs are obtained from bone marrow, typically the back of the iliac crest, or hip bone.
Stem cell are usually obtained from the bone marrow, although they can also be obtained from fat. First, the skin is numbed with lidocaine. Next, the hip bone is numbed with lidocaine. A special needle is then passed into the marrow cavity through the cortex of the bone. This may sound painful, but this is a painless procedure in most cases. The liquid marrow is slowly drawn into a syringe and once a sufficient amount is obtained, the needle is removed and a bandage is applied. The entire process takes about 15 minutes.
If the bone marrow is not properly harvested then most of what is drawn into the syringe is peripheral blood with very few stem cells in it. Apex Sports and Regenerative Medicine uses the Marrow CELLutions® device (see video above), which is the latest technological advancement in harvesting marrow stem cells, providing our patients with the best stem cell yields and the least amount of discomfort.
How are the Injections Given?
All of our stem cell and PRP injections are given under ultrasound guidance. The ultrasound is used to guide the needle to the precise location and inject the stem cells. This insures accurate and safe injections. Dr. Savarino is an expert in ultrasound guided procedures and diagnostic techniques.
Following the injection, depending on the affected joint, some patients may avoid bearing weight for a day or two. However, it is critical that the joint not be immobilized. Careful movement is critical to stimulate healing. Aggressive activity, such as sports, should be avoided for a period of time. We provide each patient with specific post-injection activity guidelines.
What are “Orthobiologics?”
“Orthobiologics” is the combination of biology and biochemistry in the development of materials and substances to aid in bone and soft tissue healing. The most common examples of orthobiologic agents are stem cells and PRP (platelet-rich plasma). However a number of exciting new orthobiologics products have–and continue to–emerge in the market. The most common include:
- Exosomes (growth factors derived from umbilical cord stem cells)
- Placenta Tissue Matrix
- Amniotic fluid and amniotic membrane products
These products can be used alone or in combination with each other to stimulate a natural healing response. Which product, or combination of products, is used for treatment depends on a number of factors that your doctor can review with you.
Are these products safe?
Yes. So far the research, and extensive clinical medical experience, has shown that these products are very safe. The majority of them are also FDA registered and undergo rigorous testing to help insure safety.
Are these products “stem cells?”
Absolutely NOT! While exosomes, placenta tissue products, and amnion-derived products all have excellent growth factors and have potential utility in stimulating healing, NONE of them can ANY viable stem cells. Sadly there are clinics around the country promoting and advertising the use of these as “stem cell” treatments. But that is blatant fraud, and you should avoid any clinic that is marketing these products as such. The only legal sources of viable stem cells for use in commercial clinical practice is stem cells derived from your own bone marrow, fat, or blood.