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Stem Cell Treatment from Bone Marrow vs. Stem Cell Treatment from Fat

Posted at 11:04 AM on Aug 20, 2019


We're living in a time where multiple exciting advances have been made across the fields of science, technology, and medicine. Stem cell regenerative therapies in particular have surged in popularity in recent years. They’ve shown incredible promise in the areas of tissue regeneration and pain mitigation.

Most people at least know what a stem cell is, but they usually aren’t sure of the specifics. Here, we’ll go into more detail on stem cells, how they’re obtained, and how they can be used to help heal our bodies. Specifically, we'll look at two of the main sources of adult stem cells: stem cells derived from fat, and stem cells harvested from bone.

What Are Stem Cells?

The Mayo Clinic describes stem cells as “the body’s raw materials.” They are capable of multiplying indefinitely to become any type of cell. Imagine a substance used in the construction of a building that is able to become steel, concrete, or even glass. Stem cells work in much the same way within our bodies.

Given the right conditions, stem cells produce daughter cells. They divide to form many kinds of cells—blood, bone, heart, or muscle, for example—through a process called differentiation. They can also form more stem cells, making them self-renewing. Stem cells are the only type of cell that can generate new cell types naturally.

“They have a tremendous capacity to differentiate and form different tissues, so that’s the thought behind regenerating cartilage, regenerating nerve cells, and healing any injured tissues,” orthopedic surgeon Dr. Anthony Miniaci said in an interview with the Cleveland Clinic.

That capacity has led to a lot of excitement around stem cell therapies. It's even been backed up by success in many cases.

It’s important to note, however, that more extensive testing is needed to confirm exactly how and why stem cell therapies work. Not all therapies involving stem cells may prove effective. Testing is being conducted in a variety of applications, such as repairing bone marrow and cells damaged by chemotherapy.

How Do Doctors Retrieve Stem Cells from Our Bodies?

There are two types of adult stem cells commonly used in regenerative therapies: stem cells from bone marrow and stem cells from fat (adipose) tissue.

When taking stem cells from a person’s bone marrow, the cells are usually retrieved via an injection into the hip. With the patient under anesthesia, the treatment team inserts a needle into the hip bone and extracts some bone marrow cells and blood. From this sample, they are able to harvest and cultivate stem cells.

Adult stem cells from fat are usually harvested via liposuction. Adipose-derived stem cells (ADSCs) are considered highly adaptable and are being tested in treatments for conditions including diabetes mellitus, liver disease, and corneal lesions.

Once retrieved from the body, the stem cells are implanted into the patient precisely at the point of injury. There, they can get to work regenerating damaged tissue.

What Are the Risks of Stem Cell Treatment?

The risks associated with stem cell regenerative therapy are generally low, even when harvesting cells from the hip bone. The largest risk during the procedure is actually posed by the local anesthesia.

Any time an injection or incision is made into the body, there is a risk of infection. Medical professionals do their best to minimize that risk through the use of sterile equipment and strict sanitation practices. To date, there have been no reported majorly adverse events from orthopedic stem cell therapy.

Orthopedic Applications of Stem Cell Treatment from Bone Marrow

Evidence suggests that stem cells retrieved from bone marrow support the growth of stable joint cartilage. Researchers from the University of Basel and University Hospital of Basel found in 2018 that stem cells originating in bone marrow readily produce it.

The corresponding report to this study called bone marrow stem cells “extremely promising for skeletal tissue regeneration.” The observed cells initially differentiated into cartilage tissue and then remodeled into bone tissue. This is similar to the way that cartilaginous tissue forms after we break a bone.

In the treatment of conditions like osteoarthritis or other degenerative ailments that affect cartilage, stem cells from bone marrow could help the body grow new cells to replace damaged ones. They may also reduce inflammation and pain in patients, leading to a better overall quality of life.

The “gold standard” of regenerative stem cell therapy is using autologous cells to treat a patient’s injured tissue. Autologous means “from one’s own body.” Since the stem cells used are your own, your body is more likely to utilize them in its repair of damaged tissue.

However, because cartilage is a very difficult tissue to regenerate, the earlier a condition is caught, the better. Treating damaged cartilage with regenerative stem cell therapy is easier before it progresses too far. With more advanced damage, the majority of cartilage inside a joint is ground down. At that point, mobility becomes extremely limited, and replacement surgery may be the only option.

The applications of stem cell regenerative therapy are incredibly promising. Stem cells are already being used in numerous therapies, notably for pain management due to back and joint problems. Since stem cells are so versatile, pain management and orthopedic treatment are likely only the beginning of possible applications.

Minneapolis Stem Cell Treatment

At Twin Cities Pain Management, we use stem cells derived from bone marrow for treatment for back pain, stem cell treatment for knee pain, and stem cell treatment for shoulder pain. The stem cells we use are obtained from your bone marrow, allowing you to receive the maximum benefit from the procedure. If you'd like to find out more, take a look around our website to see what we do. Or, just give us a call and set up a consultation our Medical Director Dr. Constantin Starchook.