Putting your cells to work to cure what ails you
Stem-cell therapy is a growing field that uses the body’s own cells to strengthen and repair damaged bone and cartilage, and has proven particularly helpful for joint pain caused by arthritis or injury. At a recent informational seminar, Dr. Roger Kruse of Promedica Regenerative Medicine told those in attendance that he anticipates continued growth of these kinds of therapies. “I think regenerative medicine is going to be at the forefront of medicine in the next 10 years,” Kruse said.
Source of the cells
Stem cells are undifferentiated cells— the basic cells from which all others develop, and can be used therapeutically anywhere in the body. Generally, bone marrow and adipose (fat) tissue are considered the best source for the cells. But some studies have found that the benefits of stem cells harvested from adipose tissue may make it a better source. According to “Adipose Tissue-Derived Stem Cells in Regenerative Medicine,” one of many articles available on the National Center for Biotechnology Information website, cells from fat are easier to harvest than marrow cells, and do not weaken with age.
In the case of bone marrow it’s the retrieval process that many people worry about, but Kruse insisted it’s not as painful as people fear. Citing a 2009 survey of patients who had undergone a bone marrow aspiration to retrieve cells, Kruse said 86 percent reported they’d had little or no discomfort, 88 percent said the level of discomfort was lower than they expected, and 88 percent said they’d do it again without hesitation.
For some conditions, however, platelet-rich plasma may do the trick. While not as powerful as stem cells, Kruse explained, platelet-rich plasma contains the same mechanisms.
“Platelets have your growth factors, and things that decrease inflammation in your joint,” he said. “So for [conditions] that aren’t as bad, we’ll use platelet-rich plasma.” Those conditions include tendon issues such as rotator cuff injuries and tennis elbow, he said, and the platelet therapy only requires a blood draw.
Strengthening to enhance results
In order to get the best possible results from regenerative therapies, Kruse said it’s important that a patient has, or reestablishes, some joint strength before the procedure. Patients who favor a sore knee or hip often lose strength over time, fearing that walking will make the arthritis or pain worse. In such cases, the doctor may order physical therapy before the stem cell treatment.
“Being strong is so important. If we don’t get good range of motion it’s very hard to work on strength, and it’s very hard to get good results,” Kruse said. “A lot of times if it’s really sore, we’ll do an ultrasound-guided injection of cortisone to get you going in PT.”
But the first step is the consultation, Kruse said. The doctor will review your xrays or MRI, determine if you have conditions that might keep you from doing well, and advise you on how, or whether, to move forward with regenerative therapy.
For more information or to register for an upcoming seminar, call 419-578-7515.