Stem cell therapy has been around for decades. This regenerative therapy has been developing for a long time and has made great strides in recent years.
One of the most exciting treatments using stem cell therapy is using the cells to repair knee cartilage, joints and tissues. With so many people suffering from arthritis and other conditions in their knees, stem cell therapy can be a welcome solution to aid knee conditions before surgery or knee replacement is the necessary course of action.
Our bodies are full of stem cells which are able to become any type of cell we need. Stem cell therapy pulls these cells and places them into the knee to help jumpstart the repair process of broken down cartilage and tissue. The most common place stem cells are extracted from is the bone marrow inside the patient’s own body.
Stem cell procedures only take a few hours and can be performed in a doctor’s office. Patients are able to go home on the same day without the need to stay overnight at a hospital. Patients typically report that their knee pain has improved within weeks of the procedure.
What are stem cells?
The human body is composed of all kinds of different cells. Every part, be it an organ, a tissue or the blood in our veins, is made of cells. Before any cell can become a blood cell or tissue cell, it is first a stem cell. These are “unmapped” cells that are waiting for an opportunity to become whatever the body needs them to be.
Cells of all kinds are constantly dying within our bodies, and they are quickly regenerated when nearby stem cells copy the characteristics of their neighboring cells. This is how our body can keep functioning properly, through the removal of the old cells and replacement with the new on a regular basis.
However, our body deteriorates due to age or an injury and the stem cells can no longer replenish what is lost. That’s where stem cell treatment comes in. Doctors can pull stem cells from elsewhere in the body and place them right where they are needed. These relocated stem cells will go to work copying the characteristics of nearby cells and rebuild what has been lost.
How are they obtained?
Stem cells typically come from one of two places: the patient’s own body or from embryos and umbilical cords of newborns. Due to ethical strife, embryonic and umbilical stem cell research and use is limited. Most patients will receive stem cell therapy through the use of their own stem cells within their own bodies.
Adult stem cells can be obtained from nearly anywhere in the human body. They exist all throughout our person, but they are most prevalent in our bone marrow. These areas are very potent for stem cell extraction, as our bones tend to develop and hold them there more than other areas of the body.
What is the process for a patient?
Despite the seemingly complex process of stem cell therapy, the procedure is typically very quick. Patients go through an outpatient procedure at a stem cell clinic which usually takes just a few hours. No surgery is performed and patients are able to go on with their day afterwards.
First, doctors will extract stem cells from the patient’s body, usually from the bone marrow. These are very potent and easy to access safely. The stem cells are extracted with a precision needle and imagery guidance. This ensures that the doctor is reaching the best possible place to pull the stem cells.
Next, the doctor will take the stem cells and work with them in their lab. Seeing as these cells are able to mimic their surrounding cells and multiply, a minimal amount of stem cells can be stimulated to create more stem cells in the lab. This way, doctors will not need to extract a large amount of cells.
Finally, the stem cells are injected into the patient at the point in their knee where they are most needed. Again, using high quality imagery guidance, the doctor can precisely inject the cells right where they need to be. These stem cells will then go to work repairing the body over the course of a few weeks until they become proper cells.
Once the procedure is complete, patients are able to go home the same day and typically report feeling less pain within a few days or weeks. For those with knee osteoarthritis or general wear and tear, stem cell therapy can be an excellent option for reducing pain and avoiding the need for knee surgery or total knee replacement.
How do stem cells help?
The stem cells that are injected into your knee work just like stem cells from anywhere else in your body.
Over time, our cells die and must be regenerated. When your knee joints and tissues deteriorate too much, your body will not be able to replenish the cells that were lost. Stem cell therapy adds extra material for your body to work with to help repair your damaged knee.
In a matter of days or weeks, the injected stem cells will begin to copy their neighbor cells, becoming the type of cells the body needs for healing. This means repairing and replacing lost or damaged tissue or joint material. After a short time, your knee pain will fade or even vanish entirely thanks to the treatment.
Treatment for knee pain with stem cell therapy is one of the least invasive ways to repair torn tissue and weakening joints. The greatest benefit of stem cell therapy is it reduces your chance of needing knee repair or knee replacement surgery.
Studies on Stem Cell Therapy for Knees
Stem cell therapy has been around for decades, but has been developed more extensively in the past 10 years. While studies are limited, many have confirmed that stem cell therapy is a fairly safe way to repair damage anywhere in the body.
More than anything, stem cell therapy has been performed more on the knees than any other area of the body. Some have reported complications as with any medical procedure, but the most common complications reported due to stem cell therapy are knee stiffness and pain. According to Dr. Keith Bjork of Amarillo, TX, “We don’t have a lot of controlled trials yet, (but) their (patients) results are the strongest evidence”.
Stem cell therapy of the knees is not limited to those looking to avoid surgery, either. In 2014, a study showed that injections given after knee surgeries that removed torn cartilage led to less pain and better cartilage regeneration. In 2017, researchers reviewed 6 studies that followed stem cell therapy treatments for patients with knee arthritis. Their findings showed that most patients had good results with no major side effects from the stem cell treatment.
While stem cell therapy may be in its early stages of study, the results so far have been very promising. Most patients report lower levels of pain and fewer patients need invasive surgery for their knee problems due to the therapy. As the science behind stem cell therapy continues to be studied through clinical trials around the world, hopefully, results will only continue to improve.
If you are suffering from knee pain and joint damage, stem cell therapy may be the best option to remedy your condition. This quick, outpatient procedure makes it easy for patients to regain their mobility and reduce their pain without the need for a major surgery. Talk to your doctor about the use of stem cell therapy to help repair your knee and reduce your knee pain.