Whether you live an active lifestyle and enjoy taking part in sports, or simply enjoy a casual stroll in the evening to help you relax and unwind, your knees play a crucial role in your ability to move. However, over time, and through natural wear and tear due to use, your knees deteriorate. Stem cell therapy for knees may be able to help.
Osteoarthritis of the knee
Osteoarthritis of the knee, a condition created by simple wear and tear, affects an estimated 30 million people in America, and that’s just one type of knee injury. There are many others that could derail your fitness efforts, or even make walking virtually impossible, including meniscus tears, injuries to ligaments, overuse conditions, and other degenerative conditions.
In the past, surgery was the only option that offered much in the way of effectiveness, although injections of cortical steroids provided temporary relief. Total knee replacements are expensive, require a great deal of time to complete, and are not always totally effective at remedying the condition.
Today, there are other treatment options for patients suffering from osteoarthritis of the knee, as well as other similar conditions. Stem cell therapy for knees can provide relief from pain and swelling, and can even help you get back to living a healthy, active life once more. What should you know about this type of treatment?
How Do Stem Cells Work in the Knee?
Stem cells are considered the building blocks of all other cell types. They predate all other types of cells during embryo formation during pregnancy, and they persist throughout our lives, although they decline in number as we age. In addition to being the precursor of all cell types, stem cells are a vital part of your body’s repair process throughout your life, helping to repair damaged cells, replacing dead cells with healthy ones, and more.
These cells are renowned for their ability to transform into any other type of cell in the body. They can become blood vessels, and brain cells. They can transform into lung tissue and muscle tissue. They can likewise transform into connective tissue, such as ligaments and they can form cartilage.
Once in the knee, stem cells immediately go to work repairing damaged tissue, smoothing rough surfaces, replacing diminished cartilage and building new tendon and soft tissue. In many cases, this can actually halt the degenerative process entirely, offering long-term relief from the pain and inflammation of osteoarthritis and other degenerative joint conditions, and allowing you to return to living your life like normal.
How Are Stem Cells Delivered to the Knee?
Stem cells can be delivered to the knee in one of two ways: They can be delivered intravenously through an IV, or they can be directly injected into the knee itself. Of the two, direct injection is the most common method, as it offers faster results and less time spent waiting. When delivered intravenously through an IV, stem cells must travel throughout the entire body before finally reaching the knee. There is also the chance that the stem cells will be required to repair damage to tissue in other areas of the body.
However, with With direct injection (generally which may be accompanied by platelet rich plasma, or PRP, or a viscous injection such as Hyalgan), the stem cells are placed in the immediate area where they are needed. With that being said, it’s important that you speak with your doctor to determine which method of administration is the better choice for your specific situation. Stem cell treatment should always be customized to the patient, rather than being seen as a one-size-fits-all option.
What Type of Stem Cells Should Be Used?
You’ll find two types of stem cells in use today – autologous and allogeneic. Many options in stem cell therapy for knee-related conditions focus on the use of autologous stem cells, but these are far from the most effective option. Allogeneic stem cells offer significantly better results.
- Autologous: Autologous stem cells are your own stem cells. They’re harvested from tissues within your own body, such as fat. However, these stem cells are as old as you are, which means they have already seen significant use in your body and are not at their peak. This means that they are far less effective, and it is usually necessary to administer much higher concentrations of autologous stem cells to see even a fraction of the benefits found with allogeneic cells. In addition, autologous stem cells are found in relatively low concentrations within your body’s tissues, meaning that few can be harvested at one time. Multiple harvest sites may be required for just a single treatment.
- Allogeneic: Allogeneic stem cells are harvested from donated umbilical cord blood and umbilical cord tissue. These are young, energetic cells that have a long life ahead of them. Allogeneic stem cells provide the most effective treatment for an incredibly wide range of treatment options, including therapy for osteoarthritis of the knee and other degenerative joint conditions, require lower concentrations to be effective, and last far longer within the body than your own stem cells. Allogeneic stem cells have no chance of triggering the body’s immune system, as they are “blank”, and the immune system sees them as not being a threat.
What are the differences between allogeneic and autologous stem cells?
Aside from the life stem cells there are establish treatments for the knees and other joints with stem cell secretions preserved for use separately from the stem cells. This treatment is cheaper because it does not require preserving stem cells, but it is less potent.
Of a note, it used to be thought that the end stage knee disease (“bone on bone”) could not be treated with stem cells, but as we gained more experience it became obvious that even end-stage severe degenerative knee disease may be successfully treated with stem cell injections.
Is Stem Cell Therapy for Knees Right for You?
Most patients will see benefits from stem cell therapy for knees, but it is important that you make an informed decision based on sound medical advice pertinent to your specific situation and health conditions. It’s also important to note that no stem cell treatment is FDA approved, and all treatment options that rely on these cells are considered experimental. Finally, it’s vital to understand that while stem cells have been used for several decades at this point, many doctors are unfamiliar with them, or are unfamiliar with the differences between allogeneic stem cells and autologous stem cells. It is important that you work with the right physician to treat your health condition.