What are Stem cells

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Q: What is a stem cell and how can it help with pain?

A: These are cells in your body that has the potential to change into several other types of cells. They have the potential to create a new muscle cells, or skin cells and thereby the potential to regenerate damaged tissue including tendons and ligaments. These versatile cells are called stem cells. They are the repairman of the body.

Stem cells are most abundant during embryonic and fetal development. Research on embryonic stem cells is severely regulated. However, adults have stem cells in the bodies, though the concentrations decline with age. These adult stem cells are present in high concentrations in bone marrow as well as adipose tissue and can be harvested and processed to help with pain conditions arising as a consequence of damaged joints due to osteoarthritis or tendinitis.

Stem cell therapy therefore is about concentrating and delivering the cells to the right part of the body. Once these cells reach the target they can specialize into the cells composing for example cartilage or tendon. Thus potentially reducing pain and improving function over the course of months.

Q: What are risks and complications?

A: These are cells derived from your own body. Therefore no foreign material is introduced into your body. Donor incompatibility or rejection is avoided. Risks arise from the procedure itself.

Q: What kind of results can I expect?

A: This is a field is in its infancy. Research continues. Regeneration from stem cells take place gradually. Results are noticed over weeks to months. As with any type of treatment not every patient will have success with this treatment.

Q: How are stem cells harvested?

A: Bone marrow aspiration is performed using a needle from the hip (iliac) bone using fluoroscopic guidance and local anesthetic with minimal discomfort. Adipose derived stem cells is obtained by liposuction from the lower abdomen or buttock.

Q: Is this FDA approved?

A: FDA considers use of stem cell reimplantation to be within the scope of practice of medicine when no more than minimal manipulation is used.

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