stem cell therapy myths & misconceptions

10 Stem Cell Myths & Truths

Scott Brandt, M.D. Stem Cell Therapy

Stem cell therapy can serve as an alternative treatment for many patients with joint pain, ligament and tendon damage, and back injuries. As new information and findings rapidly emerge, both new and old stem cell myths persist. Ongoing stem cell research and clinical experience in regenerative medicine is beginning to clarify many of these misconceptions.

With offices in Vail and Denver, Colorado, ThriveMD possesses the unique experience and knowledge to educate our active communities about the power of stem cell therapy in helping one’s body heal itself. Proven stem cell research studies, combined with ThriveMD’s extensive stem cell clinical experience, provide ThriveMD the expertise to discern fact from fiction on each of the stem cell myths and truths.

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Contact our Vail or Denver office to find out if you could be a candidate for stem cell therapy.

Stem Cell Myth 1: Stem Cell Therapy Is Not Legal

Facts: ThriveMD does not use embryonic stem cells. Adult autologous (from your own body) stem cells are the only type of stem cells that are used in our therapies. Adult stem cell therapies are legal when used as part of a same-day procedure and the cells have not been expanded.

Stem Cell Myth 2: Stem Cells for Treatments Are Harvested from Embryos

Facts: Embryonic stem cell research has stirred up great controversy and ethical concerns, but remains to be just a speck on the broader stem cell canvas. Other types of stem cells include umbilical cord blood and adult stem cells. For the potential treatment of joints, ligaments, tendons, and the spine, adult stem cells are routinely used. Adult stem cells exist in every human body throughout one’s life and are present in every tissue and organ.

Adult stem cells exists in adult adipose (fat) tissue and bone marrow. The largest reservoir of adult stem cells is found in the adipose (fat) tissue and can work well on it’s own or when applied in combination with bone marrow stem cells. Stem cell treatments with autologous adult stem cells have been creating a staggering array of recent medical breakthroughs.

Stem Cell Myth 3: Stem Cells Need to Be Banked at Birth to Allow for Later Treatments

Facts: Umbilical cord blood can be extracted at birth and preserved for the future benefit of the child. While this type of stem cell technique is safe and is becoming commonplace to store the cells, there are currently very few ways to utilize these cells beyond compassionate-care cases. However, adult stem cells are currently in clinical use today and are easily and safely harvested from the patient’s fat and bone marrow reserves.

Adult stem cells can be utilized for a variety of treatment options, which include joint, ligament and tendon injuries, and back pain. More and more often, our patients have been utilizing these powerful cells as an effective and ethical alternative to knee replacement, alternative to spinal fusion, or to avoid many other invasive joint and back surgeries.

Stem Cell Myth 4: Bone Marrow Is the Best Source of Stem Cells

Facts: Bone marrow is a useful source for stem cell harvest – it contains unique growth factors and significant hematopoietic cells that help drive tissue regeneration. On the other hand, it is not the only source of adult stem cells, or the most abundant source. As we age, the stem cell quantity dramatically declines in bone marrow,  while stem cells from adipose (fat) tissue always remain abundant regardless of age.

At ThriveMD, Dr. Scott Brandt has undergone extensive fat harvesting training to be able to extract stem cells from adipose (fat) tissue which contains roughly 100-1000 times more stem cells per volume than bone marrow. For the most effective treatment of your condition, a tailored formula of adipose-derived adult stem cells combined with cells harvested from bone marrow should be used.

Stem Cell Myth 5: Stem Cell Therapy Is Unsafe

Facts: The risks of adult stem cell therapy are minimal when autologous adult stem cells exclusively are used. ThriveMD is proactive in research and only applies the safest best practices. Moreover, by using adult stem cells from your own adipose (fat) tissue and bone marrow, the body accepts the new tissue as its own, eliminating the risk of rejection. Also, because the stem cells are from your own body, there is no risk of contracting a transmittable infectious disease from a donor patient.

The increased risk of heart attack, as found to be associated with knee and hip replacement surgery, is not present in stem cell therapy, either. Like any procedure, there is a minute risk of infection at the liposuction site of the fat collection and at the injection site. To minimize that risk, patients are provided with a course of antibiotics and the procedure is carried out under strict sterile conditions.

Stem Cell Myth 6: Stem Cell Therapy Is Unproven

Facts: There are many patients who would potentially be great candidates to undergo a stem cell procedure for the treatment of orthopedic injuries, and who, due to a lack of confidence in these therapies, have not taken advantage of the opportunity to regenerate their damaged joints and discs. These promising therapies have now been utilized in clinical practice to treat degenerative knees, hips, shoulders and lumbar discs for more than five years and are demonstrating excellent results. Patients are seeing marked reduction in pain as well as improvement in cartilage quality.

There are a number of studies that have been published in the regenerative medicine and orthopedic literature demonstrating positive results from stem cell therapies. Evidence is particularly strong in the following three recent studies on treating osteoarthritis with stem cells: 2013, 2014, 2015.

These procedures are quickly becoming a first line treatment for degenerative joint disease and discogenic low back pain, providing a minimally invasive option to avoid invasive surgical repair. There are numerous stem cell patient case studies as well as joint patient testimonials and back pain patient testimonials for your review.

Stem Cell Myth 7: Stem Cells Are the Ultimate Cure for Everything

Facts: Stem cell therapies are becoming as game changing to the medical field as antibiotics were for the 20th century. Yet, stem cell procedures are certainly not the answer to every degenerative condition. It is crucial to have the right expectations as a patient. Hips with bony encroachment on the joint space, large disc herniations causing sciatica, and knees with severely asymmetric degeneration are some examples of conditions that typically will not respond well to stem cell therapy. Similarly, stem cell treatments may have the potential to heal a tear in a rotator cuff tendon or ACL when the tear is partial, but not when the tear is full. ThriveMD puts an emphasis on educating potential patients and helping them make well-informed treatment decisions.

Stem Cell Myth 8: Most Religions Oppose Stem Cell Research

Facts: Many religious leaders are against the use of controversial embryonic stem cells for research and potential treatment. Adult stem cells do not carry this stigma. In fact, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI has given his approval to adult stem cell research, saying, “I pray that your commitment to adult stem cell research will bring great blessings for the future of man and genuine enrichment to his culture.”

Stem Cell Myth 9: Americans Need to Travel Abroad for Stem Cell Treatments

Facts: Stem cell therapy regulations differ greatly by country. The FDA has provided guidelines defining the use of human stem cells in the US. Currently, Americans do have excellent access to stem cell treatments for a range of conditions – e.g. joint pain, ligament tears, tendon injuries, low back pain, facet joint pain, and even whiplash. While progress in the realm of public opinion has improved and the same-day procedures are now practiced in the US, regulatory and administrative difficulties are still hampering medical innovation according to some healthcare experts.

Stem Cell Myth 10: Stem Cell Therapy Is As Difficult A Recovery for Patients As Invasive Surgery

Facts: Stem cell therapy for joint pain is an excellent example of the ease with which patients can potentially improve pain and mobility while avoiding an invasive joint replacement surgery. The stem cell procedure is performed in an outpatient setting. Patients typically return to work within a day or two and they resume physical activity much faster than after invasive surgery. The entire procedure takes 3-4 hours and no general anesthesia is used.  Most patients do not require post-operative pain medication.


Adult autologous stem cell therapies hold great promise for the future of medicine because of their potential to minimize pain, improve cartilage health, improve lumbar discs or facet joints, as well as help heal soft tissue damage. The ability to utilize stem cells from one’s own body to safely and naturally treat many different patient ailments is beginning to revolutionize healthcare. With more public support and cooperative regulatory policies, adult stem cells have the potential to forever change the healthcare landscape.

*Individual patient results may vary. Contact us today to find out if stem cell therapy may be able to help you.

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If you believe you or someone you care about could be a candidate for stem cell therapy administered by a trusted clinic, please contact us today.