Stem Cell therapy for arthritis Pros & Cons

Stem Cell therapy for arthritis Pros & Cons

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Stem Cell therapy for arthritis Pros & Cons

Stem Cell Therapy- What is it?

A stem cell is a type of cell which can divide and duplicate itself, as well as differentiate into (become) different types of functional tissue. Babies develop from a single differentiating and dividing cell and they give rise to embryonic stem cells, while in adults there are different types of stem cells sourced from fat (adipose) tissue, marrow, or blood, called mesenchymal stem cells that are believed to be involved in the repair and healing of injured tissues. Cells are either harvested from the patients themselves (in the case of adult mesenchymal cells), or harvested from embryos or the placenta of newborns, then lab cultured or processed into a concentrated solution, sometimes with the addition of chemicals.

It is theorised that when stem cells are injected near a site of damaged or inflamed tissue they are triggered to develop into that particular tissue and become involved in the repair and regeneration process. However, this is still a highly controversial subject, with much disagreement among experts. While adult stem cell research is widely practiced, embryonic stem cell research is banned in some countries, including the USA. A recent review of stem cell research for knee arthritis found few clinical trials of note, all of which were subject to significant bias and therefore could not recommend the treatment.

Some clinics combine stem cell therapy with Platelet Rich Plasma therapy.

 

Pros:

  • By using the patient’s own tissue (in the case of mesenchymal┬ástem cells), the risks of rejection are less
  • The procedure is minimally invasive and injections can be precisely guided through the use of ultrasound
  • Younger patients with relatively less damage seem to report better outcomes
  • Generally few side effects besides swelling and pain

 

Cons:

  • There are few, if any, guidelines available for doctors or potential patients to decide if its right for you
  • The process of harvesting, culturing, concentrating and administering stem cells is far from standardised and so there is substantial variation in methodology, which can be confusing
  • The tissue sourcing can be painful with some risk of infection (e.g. sourcing of marrow or fat tissue)
  • Older patients and more severely arthritic conditions have reported poorer outcomes
  • Can be very expensive (thousands of dollars) for only modest improvements and scant evidence of efficacy
  • The use of embryonic stem cells have been associated with increased risk of tumors

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