Procedures using stem cells are a developing technology that have given rise to a new field of medicine – Regenerative Medicine. The ultimate goal of these stem cell therapies is to functionally repair tissues and organs avoiding the need for artificial replacement therapies. Even though there have been huge progress in our knowledge of these cells and how they work there has been a challenge of how to use that knowhow in clinical medicine.


What are Stem Cells ?


The term ‘stem cell’ is used so often and often misused that its true meaning has been lost.

For a cell to be a stem cell it must have the ability to differentiate ( turn into) into many different types of cells and it must have the capability to self renew so that it can grow and create tissue. This is a process known as asymmetric division where from one cell a whole organ can be made. This is different from regular( somatic) cells that divide and create two identical daughter cells with the same exact potential.


Different types of stem cells :

Stem cells are categorized by their POTENCY – the more  daughter cells a stem cell can produce the more potent it is.

When an embryo is forming stem cells we call Totipotent, these are the most potent stem cells  simply because they are present when the human embryo is forming and they need to possess the ability  to take two cells and define whole organs.


Pluripotent Stem Cells appear as the embryo continues to grow, these cells are a bit more restricted as to what organs they will make. Embryonic stem cells fall into this category. These are responsible to generate all the cells of the embryo. There is another form of embryonic stem cells  which goes on to create the placenta. You may remember a lot of controversy on the ethics of using these cells since they must be taken from a forming embryo – but in 2009 a method of creating these embryonic stem cells from mature adult fibroblast cells was published allowing this new science. These new laboratory made cells were called iPS cells . This stands for induced pluripotent stem cells. They take normal cells and encode into them the genes that change them into pluripotent cells.


Adult Stem Cells are different in those mentioned above, they cannot just form into any tissue they want, they are restricted to make daughter cells of only the same type of organ they are associated with. Examples of this would be epidermal stem cells that live in our skin and make – skin, hematopoetic stem cells live in our bone marrow and make blood cells.

Mesenchymal Stem Cells  (MSC) are widely studied in bone and joint medicine because they are limited but have a potential to create new bone, tendon, muscle and even more importantly- cartilage. Scientists have also found that thee cells can also regenerate cardiac skin and nerve tissue but these uses are  experimental only. These  MSC cells are now the most commonly studied.


Whats the point?

First off as I mentioned before the term stem cell has lost its meaning somewhat, may doctors label any cell treatment as stem cell therapy.

What is not stem cell therapy: PRP injections are not stem cell therapy. As a matter of fact very few medical/ surgical procedures advertised now are true stem cell procedures.

We are now using stem cell reimplantation during our surgical procedures usually part of cartilage regeneration or repair with arthroscopy ( camera in joint instead of a large incision )

If you have any serious cartilage injuries or end or mid stage arthritis of any ankle or foot joints give us a call. Not everyone will benefit from these techniques either, if there is an underlying problem causing the joint damage that needs to be fixed as a priority.




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