Knee pain from osteoarthritis affects millions of people, and it remains a major cause of disability and missed work days in the U.S. Unfortunately, traditional medical methods for relieving knee pain from osteoarthritis are often ineffective or undesirable. For example, pain-relief treatments like physical therapy or anti-inflammatory medications often fail to adequately address the source of knee pain. And invasive surgeries like arthroscopies or subchondral bone drillings often cause serious side effects like further discomfort or loss of motion. The good news is that stem cell therapy offers individuals with knee damage a viable alternative to traditional treatment options for knee cartilage regeneration or replacement.
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Stem cell therapy for knee cartilage regeneration is a minimally invasive procedure that has the potential to decrease inflammation, halt the progression of arthritic damage, repair joint cartilage, and delay or avoid knee replacement surgery.
Knee Cartilage Damage
Articular cartilage damage, especially when it affects the knee joint, remains a major clinical problem due to the poor intrinsic ability for this tissue to repair itself. The major function of joint cartilage is to allow for smooth gliding of joint surfaces and to protect the surrounding bone from stress. This sort of movement is key for individuals who participate in sports such as skiing. In a wider context, though, knee cartilage damage can prevent people from running, exercising, or just moving as freely as they’d like. Articular cartilage allows the knee to absorb shock and loads up to 20 times the body weight.
There are many reasons why someone may experience articular knee cartilage damage. Regular wear and tear on the knee over time, involvement in high-stress activities, or accidents and injuries can all contribute to cartilage damage around the knee joint.
The Impact of Osteoarthritis
Osteoarthritis is a chronic degenerative disorder that ultimately leads to a gradual deterioration of knee joint cartilage. Osteoarthritis may also be the result of a prior injury to the knee joint such as a fracture, tendon damage, or ligament tears.
This may lead to joint instability, which can cause long-term damage to the articular cartilage. Arthritis can affect not only the cartilage but may also lead to damage of the bone beneath the cartilage, the synovial lining to the joint, ligaments, tendons, and muscles.
Using Stem Cells for Degenerative Knee Cartilage
Adult stem cells are incredibly versatile in a medical sense. They have a potential to reliably differentiate into cartilage, bone, fat, or soft tissue. Because of this, the injection of progenitor cells, especially mesenchymal stem cells (special stem cells from adipose tissue or bone marrow), have been shown to be a better strategy to repair degenerative cartilage than implantation of differentiated cells –– such as articular cartilage.
In other words, when adult stem cells are injected into a knee with damaged cartilage, they can act to repair damaged tissue and build new cartilage.
Adult stem cells also display the ability to specifically address areas of inflammation and degeneration and to modify immune system activity, which can favorably influence the surrounding cartilage in areas of damage.
Encouragingly, results of pre-clinical and clinical trials have provided initial evidence of efficacy and safety in the therapeutic use of mesenchymal stem cell therapies for the treatment of knee cartilage damage and osteoarthritis. Cell-based therapy has become a key priority of tissue engineering research focused on functional replacement of cartilage and meniscus regeneration.
A year long animal study has provided research that demonstrates that stem cell treatments provide structural knee cartilage regeneration with mechanical properties comparable with the native cartilage.
Stem Cell Extraction Methods
Adult stem cells used in regenerative treatments are best when autologous –– meaning that they come from the patient’s own body. Autologous stem cell extraction is a safe and effective procedure.
Adult stem cells can be extracted by minimally invasive methods from fat tissue and bone marrow.
- Bone marrow stem cells have a good potential for differentiation, and the concentrated cells have numerous growth factors that aid in the cartilage formation process. Cell numbers in bone marrow, unfortunately, dramatically decrease as a person ages, and they are often ineffective in older patients.
- Fat-derived stem cells show an enhanced ability to differentiate into cartilage and are found in dramatically higher numbers than seen in bone marrow. Not only are they typically 500-2,000 times more abundant, but they don’t decrease with age. Fat-derived cells have been shown to be successfully employed to target cartilage defects and improve osteoarthritis in patient studies. Fat-derived adult stem cells have also demonstrated improved outcomes over bone marrow for cartilage repair.
Not all research is favorable to stem cell therapy due to a wide variation in techniques and cell choice and from discrepancies in treatment methods. Due to the many ways stem cell therapy is performed, we see that some variations are not as potent as others.
Stem Cell Therapy & PRP
A minimally invasive procedure to collect stem cells from both fat and bone marrow and inject the concentrated cells under image guidance can be performed in 2-3 hours. This procedure, when supplemented with additional growth factors from platelet rich plasma or exosomes, combines the best properties from each source.
Stem Cell Therapy for Knee Cartilage Regeneration: Potential Treatment Results
Clinical outcomes from ongoing and previous stem cell therapy studies are very encouraging. They often demonstrate the ability of stem cells to improve pain and generate knee cartilage repair. Many patients have been able to avoid knee surgery as a result of advanced stem cell therapies. You can learn more about what to expect from stem cell therapy for knee pain by reading this case study of a patient from Denver.
Further studies will help to define specific cell and growth factor combinations to maximize knee cartilage regeneration.
There have been numerous professional athletes that have benefited in recent years from advanced regenerative therapies for orthopedic pain. For instance, tennis superstar, Rafael Nadal, has undergone fat-derived stem cell procedures on two occasions. After a successful procedure for his ailing knee, Nadal returned to highly competitive tennis, and notched several more major wins.
*Individual patient results may vary. Contact us today to find out if stem cell therapy may be able to help you.
Patient from Iowa uses stem cell therapy to help relieve knee arthritis and Achilles tendon pain. – Patient Testimonial
Individual patient results may vary. Please contact us today to find out if stem cell therapy may be able to help you.
For more of Dr. Brandt’s insight on stem cells for cartilage repair, as applied in treatment of severe low back pain, check out the part 2 of this series: stem cells for disc cartilage regeneration.
Knee Pain Gone in Two Weeks
“I was having terrible knee pain all the time and it was difficult to just walk and use the stairs. I was referred to Dr. Brandt and Thrive MD by a friend. I had my consultation and found out that I would be a great candidate for stem cell therapy. I had my procedure on Nov 22, 2017 and within two weeks my pain which on a scale of 1-10, was 7-8 all the time went to 0-1. I’m now 3 months post procedure and I have 0 knee pain. I would highly recommend Dr. Brandt and his team. Very, Very Satisfied.“*
Posted on Google reviewsKevin H, Google, March 2018