Imagine being one of the top athletes in your profession. You have every move, play, and defensive strategy mastered. But tragically, early in your stellar career you extend your knee beyond its threshold. Your ACL and Meniscus tear and you are left with one option surgery that will only allow you to walk again but never return to your sport. This was the case for Brandon Roy. In 2011 Roy had to retire from basketball because his knees were degenerating. However, stem cell therapy could help Brandon return to his knee and career to prosperity.
How may you ask? The answer is behind a variety of stem cells and progenitor cells sequestered deep in your bones. The most abundant source is in the iliac crest. Once a sample of bone marrow is removed it can be separated to obtain stem cells. These cells have the ability to restore and correct the knee damage.
Cells that are isolated from the bone marrow consist of Mesenchymal and Hematopoietic stem cells (MSC and HSC), Endothelial progenitor cells, and platelets. When these cells are introduced into the knee, they work together as a team to repair damaged areas. MSCs can directly turn into cartilage and bone, and repopulate the knee with healthy tissue. These regenerating cells are directed to the foci of the injury by signaling molecules found in the platelets. Endothelial progenitors can form new blood vessels from pre-existing blood vessels to extend the network of blood and perfuse new tissue with the circulating oxygen and nutrients necessary for survival.
After bone marrow derived stem cells are introduced into the knee: tendons and ligaments that were once frayed will slowly mend; damaged femoral head, tibia, and fibula that were once rough will become smooth; and synovial fluid or fatty tissue that cushions your knees increases in size. After six months the patient can expect increased performance in their knees.
Athletes should explore stem cell therapies as an alternative to invasive knee surgery. Extensive scientific research has demonstrated stem cells to be effective in bringing the knee to better health. Patients suffering from knee injuries such as arthritis, osteoporosis, and ACL injuries should consult a physician to see how stem cell therapies could better their symptoms. Stem cells therapy is the most promising avenue for true regeneration and is on the path to becoming the standard for knee repair.
Copyright © 2012 Alex Martin MD, Devin Stone, Xin Zhang, Los Angeles
- Rackwitz L, Eden L, Reppenhagen S, Reichert JC, Jakob F, Walles H, et al. Stem cell and growth factor-based regenerative therapies for avascular necrosis of the femoral head. Stem Cell Research & Therapy 2012; published online Feb 22. DOI:10.1186/scrt98
- Makris EA, Hadidi P, Athanasiou KA. 2011. The knee meniscus: Structure-function, pathophysiology, current repair techniques, and prospects for regeneration. Biomaterials: 7411–7431.