Stem cells will always have some skepticism, and probably rightfully so. However, biologic treatment, such as stem cells, may have a massive role in the future of medicine. Currently, there are over 20 spine surgeons conducting stem cell trials across America—and this is just in spine research. Across the entire medical field, this number is substantially higher. The big question about stem cell research may be the question itself. Studies have shown that stem cell treatments work and work well. However, we don’t always know why they work and why sometimes they don’t work.
Studies have shown that stem cell treatments work, and work well. However, we don’t always know why they work and why sometimes they don’t work. Also, there is much research being conducted about the source of the cells and optimum place to get them. Many researchers believe adipose tissue (fat cells) or the iliac crests (part of the pelvis) are great sources. Here’s what we know now: Stem cells are very effective. Small animal models and trials are incredibly encouraging. However, we haven’t completely refined this treatment in human adults.
So, who is getting stem cells? Are there doctors in third world countries in questionable clinics performing these procedures? No! The leaders in the field of Spine are utilizing this treatment, and the patients are commonly high profile clients. Professional athletes have been utilizing stem cells for the past couple years. Athletes are always looking for an edge, whether quicker recovery time, or treatment on an already degenerative condition. NFL quarterbacks, tennis champions, basketball players, are all signing up for stem cells, and specifically mesenchymal cell treatments. So ask yourself, if you were a millionaire, playing a sport for a living, and could afford the best care possible, why choose stem cells? Answer: because it works!
The Procedure: Stem cell treatments in Spine have been using the patient’s own body for the source of the cells. The cells are unspecialized so that have the ability to produce new cells, mature into a variety of different cell types, and mobilize in response to injury. In Spine, mesenchymal cells are used, which can become new bone, cartilage, muscle, or connective tissue. These stem cell treatments are currently not FDA–regulated, and really may not need to be. The actual procedure involves taking stem cells from a storage source of your own body and placing it into another part of the body that may be damaged. Really, the only thing surgeons are doing is relocating specific cells to another part of the body. So you’re injecting yourself with yourself, and then the nature of these cells takes over to heal, build, and regenerate tissue.
Biologic treatments such as stem cells will play a role now and in the future of medicine. At Prairie Spine & Pain Institute, we are encouraged to offer the opportunity to give our patients access to the future. We believe in innovation and pushing medicine forward and this is one way we have done so. If you have back or neck pain and are considering an alternative to surgery, come see us at Prairie Spine & Pain Institute, and learn more about stem cells.
About The Author: Derek N. Morrow, PA-C is a physician assistant with Prairie Spine and Pain Institute. Derek works in the clinic setting as a health care provider seeing patients. He is also utilized in the operating room as a first assist in surgery. In the clinic setting, his key function is to diagnose new patients and conduct their initial treatment. He works directly with patients to establish customized treatment programs and to monitor their progress. He also conducts history and physical evaluations for many patients. He performs many office procedures including trigger point injections, large joint injections, and bursa injections, all with the help of ultrasound guidance. He is radiologically trained, and uses his knowledge of X-ray, Ultrasound, MRI, CT, and EMG-Nerve Conduction Studies to establish a diagnosis and determine the appropriate treatment. Derek is surgically trained and plays a vital role in the procedures we perform at Prairie Spine and Pain Institute.