Arthritis is currently the most common condition treated with stem cells.
How does it work?
Mesenchymal stem cells are cells that are undifferentiated, meaning they can turn into specialized cells. We obtain these cells from your own fat. The stem cells are able to communicate with other cells when they are transferred from one area to another, such as your fat tissue to your knee joint.
When stem cells are installed, they have the ability to improve circulation to the immediate area, reduce inflammation, stimulate repair of cells, and inhibit cells from dying.
For arthritis, the stem cells are obtained from your fat through a minor liposuction procedure. The stem cells are separated then injected into the arthritic joint.
Because stem cells are anti-inflammatory, some people see a relatively immediate improvement. After the anti-inflammatory effect, your symptoms may partially return, and the repair takes about 1-4 months. Most people see long term reduction of discomfort after about 2 months.
One factor is patient selection. If someone has a significant deformity causing the arthritis, chances are that any improvement will be short lived. For example, if your lower leg is bent from the arthritis, that bend will continue to stress the joint.
We have seen virtually all patients respond. A large study (Autologous adipose tissue derived stromal vascular fraction cells application in patients with osteoarthritis. J Michalek, Cell Transplantation, 1/9/2015) followed 1,114 patients for an average of a year and a half. Over 90% of patients had a significant improvement of symptoms with long lasting results.
The cartilage does appear to regenerate after stem cell treatment. Studies have been done, including studies with MRI evaluation showing regrowth of previously missing cartilage. (Increased knee cartilage volume in degenerative joint disease using percutaneous implanted autologous mesenchymal stem cells).
The stem cells are able to transform into cartilage, reduce inflammation, reduce cell death, and stimulate growth. They communicate with a hormonal like mechanism to the damaged cartilage so they can be programmed to be transformed into specialized cells.
The results last a long time, but probably not forever. Arthritis develops because of your biomechanics of motion, and that situation may be ongoing. In other cases, it may be an old injury and the results will likely last much longer. Patients have been followed for a few years, and seem to generally get long term results. However, this is new enough that we don’t know how many years to expect.
Yes. Some people repeat it to get even more relief while others repeat it months to years later if the symptoms begin to return.
Yes. We are using your own cells and your own body’s regenerative abilities. This is a very low risk procedure, and it is far safer than any arthritis surgical procedure.
Not much, but there is some discomfort from the numbing shots.
No. You can resume normal activities immediately.
This procedure generally costs under $7,000.
Yes. If you have had no prior imaging studies, we can arrange for them. These may be covered by your insurance.
Call us at 586-992-8300 to schedule a free consultation with our coordinator.