What do I need to know about stem cells?

Are these embryonic stem cells?

No, they are simply your own adult stem cells. We only use autologous (your own) cells.

Are umbilical cord stem cells better than adult stem cells?

Cord stem cells are stem cells isolated from a baby’s umbilical cord. While they may be more biologically active because of their young age, recent research has suggested that they can also transmit genetic diseases that the baby may carry. Until these issues are further sorted out (likely with better genetic testing), we would advise against using any donor stem cells to treat non-life threatening disease. (cells from another person). This would include cord cells, embryonic stem cells, or someone else’s adult stem cells.

To learn more about this topic, see this YouTube presentation produced by Dr. Centeno.

Are there different types of adult stem cells?

Yes, there are many types of adult stem cells. The most common is known as a hematopoetic stem cells (HSC-CD 34+). These are easy to obtain from IV mobilized blood (where a special medicine is given to the patient first to push these cells out of the bone marrow) or bone marrow and are very plentiful. Outside of a handful of cardiac and vascular applications, they are not well studied as being effective in treating a broad range of diseases. Despite this, the vast majority of what you see being billed as “stem cells” from bone marrow (where the cells are injected the same day as collected) are these less useful cells. The type of adult stem cell that is most often seen in research as being associated with orthopedic tissue repair is a mesenchymal stem cell (MSC). MSCs can’t generally be harvested from blood. Fat tissue contains many MSCs, but these are distant cousins to the type obtained from bone marrow and aren’t as useful for orthopedic applications. For more more information on why stem cells from fat aren’t as useful as those from marrow to treat orthopedic injuries, click here. For an easy to understand patient infographic on why bone marrow stem cells are better than fat cells for orthopedic tissue repair, click here.

What are there different types of Mesenchymal Stem Cells (MSC’s)?

For orthopedic applications, two main types of MSCs have been used, bone marrow derived and adipose (fat) derived. Bone marrow MSCs are taken via a needle through a bone marrow aspirate. The bone marrow aspiration procedure sounds like a big deal, but we are consistently told by patients that the procedure is very comfortable. The second type of MSC is derived from fat tissue (adipose). This can be obtained via liposuction. For orthopedic applications, fat derived MSCs consistently and dramatically under perform bone marrow derived cells. In studies of cartilage repair, bone repair, and soft-tissue repair, bone marrow derived MSCs are much more adept at these tasks. This makes sense, as they perform this function naturally (homologous) everyday. For example, if you break a bone, it’s these bone marrow MSCs that help mend that bone. In addition, for surgical micro fracture to repair small amounts of knee cartilage damage, it’s bone marrow MSC’s that are released to do that job.

Doesn’t fat (adipose tissue) have more stem cells than bone marrow?

Yes and No. First, many adipose stem cell clinics dramatically over-estimate the number of stem cells in their processed fat. This is a good hard core science review of the kits often used by physicians which over estimate these numbers. Basically, what physicians believe to be cells are actually small globs of fat tissue. Second, the proprietary Regenexx stem cell isolation method dramatically increases the number of stem cells isolated from bone marrow (based on our lab studies).

Still, on a weight to weight basis, fat can contain more mesenchymal stem cells than bone marrow, but the problem is that they just don’t work as well for orthopedic applications (click here for more information on this topic). In addition, in the Regenexx-AD knee stem cell procedure we offer the best of both worlds, bone marrow and fat.

For an easy to understand patient infographic on why bone marrow stem cells are better than fat cells for orthopedic tissue repair, click here.