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Do we use embryonic stem cells?

Short answer—no. The regenerative procedures we offer at RSI involve only the patient’s own (autologous) cells—harvested from blood or bone marrow—to initiate and expedite the healing process. Stem cells are an extraordinary—if misunderstood—component of the human body. In this blog post, we will explain what they are, what they do, and what makes them so special.

Adult stem cells form throughout the body during embryonic development, hence their name—the trillions of cells in our bodies “stem” from these origin cells. At the earliest stages of embryonic development, all cells are “pluripotent,” meaning they are equally capable of differentiating into all possible cell types. As the embryo develops, the majority of these cells lose this pluripotency and differentiate into groups with specialized properties and functions for the development of various body parts.

Some cells, however, retain their ability to differentiate into almost all different types of cells—these are your stem cells. In addition to being pluripotent, stem cells are able to divide and self-duplicate indefinitely. Some stem cells are so powerful that they have been shown (through serial transplantation in mice) to continue function across multiple lifetimes (1)!  

Stem cells possess a variety of mechanisms which they use to prevent—or even reverse—damage or create epigenetic changes (1). The stem cells we harvest and use at RSI—also known as mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs)—are unique in their ability not only to self-renew, but also to transform into multiple types of cells within a tissue (2). Due to this rare capability, MSCs are often referred to as “multipotent stem cells” (3).

So why do you need to harvest these cells and inject them into injured structures? Certain structures in the body have an inherently poor blood supply (intervertebral discs, joint articular cartilage, tendons) and your MSCs just don’t always get where they need to be to initiate the healing process.  Our physicians at RSI are experts in harvesting your own MSCs from your bone marrow with a specialized technique of concentration, and precisely delivering these cells under image-guidance (ultrasound and/or fluoroscopy) directly at the site of injury.  This is what we do best — we have tremendous experience with these procedures.  Precisely delivering your own healing cells directly to the site of injury to create repair and, hopefully, regeneration of the injured structure.

Perhaps one of the most important characteristic of MSCs is their exceptional genomic stability (in other words, they are highly resistant to mutations), which makes them an exceptionally safe choice for regenerative procedures (2). We are all born with a certain number of stem cells, although this number varies from individual to individual. Through aging, lifestyle, and other environmental factors, the number of stem cells we retain can decrease significantly.  However, most of us have more than enough cells stored in our bodies to last a lifetime.  Unfortunately, we often go to our graves without fully tapping into these stored cells. There are many ways to protect and enhance your stem cells. In our next blog post of this series, we will discuss how to protect and “supercharge” your stem cells, maximizing their healing potential and thereby optimizing your chance of success with one of our interventional procedures.

We all have what we need to heal right inside of us.  We just need to get these healing cells to the right place when our bodies can’t accomplish this on their own. In simple terms, this is what we do at RSI.  Regenerative medicine is changing healthcare and is going to create a huge paradigm shift.  No longer will patients have to rely as much on band-aid treatments such as drugs and surgery. Regenerative medicine offers the hope for a cure to previously incurable conditions. We at RSI are at the forefront of this regenerative movement and have already seen things heal, that we never have seen heal before on their own.  With our specialized regenerative treatments we have seen torn tendons heal completely, torn ligaments heal completely, and even intervertebral discs show signs of regeneration!  Go to our patient success stories page on our website (www.regensportscare.com)  to see some of these case examples.

References:

  1. Harrison D. E. (1979). Mouse erythropoietic stem cell lines function normally 100 months: loss related to number of transplantations. Mech. Ageing Dev. 9, 427-433. 10.1016/0047-6374(79). Available at https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/37377
  2. Schultz MB, Sinclair DA. When stem cells grow old: phenotypes and mechanisms of stem cell aging. Development. 2016;143(1):3-14. Available at https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4725211/
  3. Ullah I, Subbarao RB, Rho GJ. Human mesenchymal stem cells – current trends and future prospective. Biosci Rep. 2015; 35(2): e00191. Available at https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4725211/