Autologous stem cells
An emerging therapy for orthopaedic conditions is the use of your own body’s regenerative cells. These regenerative cells are called mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs). MSCs are multipotent, meaning they can differentiate into many different types of cells including bone cells, cartilage cells, smooth muscle cells, nerve cells and other tissues.
MSCs are reservoirs of repair cells that preserve healthy tissues and are also anti-inflammatory and regenerative.
- MSC therapy is being studied to treat lesions of articular cartilage (the cartilage at the ends of bones). Cartilage lesions are the main cause of joint pain. But cartilage has insufficient inherent ability to repair itself because it contains no blood vessels. And, many rotator cuff repairs fail because the type of cartilage that connects the rotator cuff with bone is incapable of regeneration. Augmenting the healing capacity of this cartilage with MSC therapy may increase the strength of regenerated tissue.
- MSCs are under study to improve meniscus healing. The meniscus is made of cartilage and has low or no potential for regeneration because it lacks blood vessels.
- MSCs are being studied to accelerate healing from bone fractures. Results are promising but more studies are needed.
- Arthritis profoundly impacts quality of life. Currently there are no accepted methods to stop the joint destruction from Osteoarthritis. Current treatments only offer symptomatic relief not regenerative outcomes. Studies are showing promising outcomes with MSC therapy.
- Tendon and ligament lesions are common. Tissue grafts are currently used to reconstruct tendons and ligaments. But grafts have problems like the potential for poor healing and the poor quality of new tissue formed during the healing process. Studies are investigating whether MSCs have the ability to regenerate and repair lesions of the Achilles tendon, patellar tendons, and for ACL reconstruction.
- The ACL has no ability to repair itself, so surgical reconstruction with grafts is critical to successful surgery. MSC therapy may enhance graft success.
The application of MSC therapy is new and exciting. Science has shown that MSCs have great potential to address the most perplexing problems in Orthopaedics. Experiments are on-going to identify the best source for these cells, and the correct dose for each application, to prove effectiveness, and to evaluate safety and efficacy.