You may be familiar with Kobe Bryant’s 2012 trip to Germany to be treated with biologic medicine for an arthritic knee. He came back better than ever and at 34-years-old was quoted as saying, he “felt like a 27-year-old again.” The availability for athletes’ bodies to heal themselves, avoid invasive treatments, and possibly restore tissue health has lead a string of professional athletes to board a plane to Düsseldorf including Fred Couples, Tiger Woods, Vijay Singh, and Hank Kuehne, to name a few. Fast forward to 2016 and even more advances have been made in regenerative medicine.
Coined by futurist Leland Kaiser of the Kaiser Institute in a 1992 paper, regenerative medicine is defined as the process of replacing, engineering or regenerating human cells, tissues or organs to restore or establish normal function. “I believe we want to leverage modern technology to avoid traditionally invasive surgeries,” says Dr. Gregory Powell, board-certified physical medicine and rehabilitation physician with OrthoTexas, who specializes in neck and back pain, and non-operative spine treatment including spinal injections and minimally invasive spinal procedures. Powell, who carries subspecialty certifications in sports medicine and in pain medicine believes in “using state of the art techniques to help the body heal itself, rather than continuing traditional approaches the body may not be responding to.”
Stem cells, undifferentiated biological cells with the power to differentiate into specialized cells, are a key component of regenerative medicine. These cells, which in developing embryos become all the tissues of the body, can also be found in the bone marrow, adipose tissue, and blood of adults. Globally, scientists are hard at work on the development of techniques that will utilize these powerful cells to heal injuries, regenerate damaged tissues or even produce entirely new organs.
Regenerative medicine using adult stem cells is also playing a role in orthopedics. “The science behind using bone marrow cells in regenerative therapy has come a long way,” says Dr. Michael Schwartz, Orthopedic Surgeon with OrthoTexas. “Its use in orthopedics has been shown in some patients to prolong time before more invasive procedures are needed.” Many musculoskeletal conditions have few therapeutic options beyond the conventional approaches, but stem cell therapy––especially when it utilizes the patient’s own cells––offers the promise of less invasive tissue repair, faster healing, and, in some cases, the ability to delay or even avoid major surgery or joint replacement. Regardless of what area of the body is being treated, stem cell therapy may be an option for people with arthritic conditions who present with pain, but are not yet ready for full joint replacement or another surgical procedure. Schwartz, who specializes in arthroscopic and reconstructive surgery of the knee and shoulder, agrees, “If a patient is trying to avoid surgery, this is an option that could help achieve that goal.”
The cells used to treat orthopedic issues, mainly connective tissue applications, are particularly concentrated in the bone marrow. These cells are the primary means by which our bodies naturally heal throughout our lives. They give rise to cartilage, bone, muscle and fat, depending on the environment surrounding the cell. They help reduce inflammation, pain, and improve function; there is also the hope that stem cells might actually help restore some of the patient’s tissues back to a more normal state. The equipment used to extract these cells from bone marrow is currently being used in select OrthoTexas offices.
“Patients don’t have to be a professional athlete to have access to this technology anymore,” adds Dr. Alexander Glogau, board-certified and fellowship trained orthopedic surgeon at OrthoTexas, who specializes in the arthroscopic and reconstructive surgery of the knee and shoulder, with a Certificate of Added Qualification in Sports Medicine. “We are able to treat a variety of orthopedic injuries––from osteoarthritis and meniscus tears, to carpal tunnel and trigger finger––right in the office.”
A recognized leader in orthopedics, sports medicine, spine, and pain management, OrthoTexas has seven convenient locations. Offering in-house imaging services, on-site outpatient surgery centers, and six physical therapy clinics, OrthoTexas offers all-inclusive orthopedic care. Book online at www.OrthoTexas.com/RequestAppointment.