Who Is a Stem Cell Doctor?
The term “stem cell doctor” is a vague and generally unhelpful term. Stem cells are used in a variety of fields, and it is important to see a specialist in the injury or orthopedic condition you need treated.
Stem Cell Use in Orthopedics
The most common uses of stem cell therapy in orthopedics and sports medicine includes the use of adult stem cells, usually obtained from bone marrow aspiration. In general, this can harvest mesenchymal stem cells, which have the ability to replicate into cells that form the musculoskeletal system such as tendons, ligaments, and articular cartilage.
Stem cell therapy is also used in the treatment of various soft tissue as well as bone-related and cartilage injuries. Examples of soft tissues targeted by stem cell treatment include muscles, tendons, and ligaments. The food and drug administration (FDA) closely regulates these treatments, and the guidelines are constantly in a state of flux as the science from stem cells researchers advances.
Background on Stem Cells
Stem cell therapy is a form of regenerative medicine that uses the body’s natural healing mechanism to treat various conditions. Stem cells are used in regenerative medicine to renew and repair diseased or damaged tissues, and have shown promising results in treatments of various orthopedic, cardiovascular, neuromuscular and autoimmune conditions.
Different Types of Stem Cells
There are two types of stem cells: embryonic and adult. Embryonic stem cells (ESCs) come from human embryos and can develop into almost any cell type in the body. Somatic stem cells, or adult stem cells can also replicate into more than one cell type, but their replication is restricted to a limited number of cell types.
Are You a Candidate for a Stem Cell Procedure?
You will need to be evaluated by a stem cell doctor near you to see if you are a good candidate for stem cell, BMAC, PRP, or related treatments. Indications for treatment can include joint pain and musculoskeletal injuries that haven’t responded to other treatments in patients who either want to avoid surgery, or for whom surgery is not recommended. This link from the Mayo Clinic provides more information about treating disease with stem stem cell based therapies. Some treatments are approved for commercial use, while others are still in clinical trials.
BMAC Procedure (Contains Stem Cells)
BMAC stands for “bone marrow aspirate concentration). It is commonly used to treat patients with a variety of orthopedic conditions. Many doctors near you that do stem cell treatments will utilize BMAC technology. This is where bone marrow is aspirated for the marrow contents and blood forming stem cells, and this is then spun in a centrifuge and concentrated. Stem cell doctors use this for a variety of disease or injury treatments. Unlike bone marrow transplants, only the material aspirated from your own bone is used in these treatments.
The procedure can be done in a clinic area with just numbing medication, or in the operating room with stronger anesthesia. The iliac crest, from the pelvis/hip area, is most commonly utilized. However, different areas of your body can also be used – including the heel bone and the shin bone. Your orthopedist or sports medicine doctor will sterilize and numb the area. A special needle is used to extract the bone marrow fluid from your bone, and the fluid is then spun down and separated in a special machine called a centrifuge.
The BMAC is then injected in the area of pain or injury. Sometimes x-rays or ultrasound is used to help get the injection in the right place.
Pros and Cons of Biologics & Stem Cell Treatments
Stem cell therapy is a promising option in the field of orthopedic treatment. Utilizing your own cells usually minimizes negative impact. The body has an amazing ability to adapt and heal itself, and biologic treatments harness that ability. However, stem cell and biologics treatments can be expensive, and the science is relatively new.
Our knowledge of the best treatments for specific conditions is constantly evolving. There is significant media hype surrounding many of these treatments, but it is important to follow evidence-based recommendations.