With the constantly evolving technology surrounding stem cell treatments, my patients are often confused about the potential power of cell-based approaches. Let’s get in there and get our hands dirty to figure out what exactly cell-based treatments can offer for the average orthopedic patient.
Cells for Tissue Repair
The greatest potential for the cell-based approach lies in soft tissue treatments for menisci, muscles, tendons, and ligaments. These treatments help torn or damaged tissues, such as arthritic cartilage or the tendons of the rotator cuff, to repair themselves.
Frustrating and painful degenerative tendon conditions such as tennis elbow can leave you sidelined by pain, but cellular treatments can help reduce inflammation and restore a more healthy architecture to tendon fibers. While this approach holds significant promise, exclusively cell-based strategies are sometimes ineffective and require supplemental therapies to encourage implanted cells to thrive.
Stem Cell Scaffolds
Exciting breakthroughs in complementary techniques are enhancing results for patients treated with cell-based approaches. For instance, using various artificial delivery vehicles to supplement cellular flourishing can improve healing results in rotator cuff injuries. By helping implanted cells to thrive and more effectively restore damaged fibrocartilage, introducing cells in a more supported way using polyglycolic acid “scaffolds” may improve results and healing.
These types of cell-based therapies hold great potential for an array of injuries, including meniscal defects and damage. Most promisingly, these treatments currently show no significant safety issues despite their power to create significant reduction in pain and restoration in joint function to treated muscles, tendons, and other tissues. I believe the promise is great for a flourishing future for cell-based sports medicine therapies.