What is stem cell therapy?


The term “stem cell therapy” means different things to different people; it has many connotations. However, stem cell therapy is actually a specific science.

Stem cells, or stem cell “secretomes” are cells that secrete healing factors to change or enhance the local microenvironment around damaged tissue. This can cause proliferation, growth and healing of associated tissue.

Note that “stem cell therapy” does not involve stem cells turning into things, as many people misunderstand. These “stem cells” aren’t going to turn into an eye, or hair, or a nose. Whether the source is bone marrow, cord or adipose, the type of cells that are used in clinical practice simply change or enhance the microenvironment to stimulate growth and healing.

The stem cells present in the regenerative tissue matrix are alive for a short period of time secreting “factors” which are proteins that influence other cells. These “factors” stimulate proliferation, decrease cell death, increase blood flow, and attract the right building blocks for healing. They transform, or enhance, the tissue in that space, so it heals and grows.

Let’s say you put stem cells inside of the knee joint capsule. Since cells are large, they will typically stay in the joint because it is encapsulated; remember, the knee is a true joint with a synovial capsule and fluid. It is also important to realize that your injured tissue naturally secretes proteins that attract stem cells from your bone marrow to promote self healing. The additional cells placed inside of the joint are attracted to these same proteins and migrate to the injury or worn, pothole-like spots in your hard hyaline cartilage. Once the cells have arrived, they secrete those healing factors. The factors are what stimulate the person’s cartilage cells to want to proliferate and heal. Stem cell therapy can treat the underlying source of your pain by promoting healing of the “potholes” in the hard cartilage protecting the bones in your joint.

Think of this biologic treatment like a medication. There are different classes of medication – for blood pressure, cholesterol, arthritis, etc. – and they do very different things. For example, your blood pressure medicine isn’t going to lower your cholesterol. So if you understand that a stem cell secretes factors that promote tissue healing in a closed microenvironment, you’ll understand that intravenous stem cell therapy does not make sense intravenously in the treatment of diabetes or other systemic diseases. If you deliver stem cells through an IV, where are they going, and what are they treating? Stem cell therapy is a specific type of biologic medicine that must be directed by skilled physicians (MD or DO) and administered properly.

If you have questions about stem cell therapy, or how it can return you to pain-free motion, contact the team at Advanced Regenerative Orthopedics to schedule a free consultation and determine if you are a candidate!