Stem cell therapies for the treatment of various injuries and diseases that afflict athletes and sportspeople have been the focus of researchers for at least a few years, and recent findings are optimistic.
Stem cell scientists worldwide have been actively pursuing stem cell therapies to harness the process by which stem cells repair and replace damaged tissues and cells.
Researchers at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota are also incorporating platelet rich plasma (PRP) harvested from the patient’s own blood to isolate and concentrate platelets (clotting cells) and then inject them back into the injured area to amend inflammation and initiate the healing process. PRP preparations can be individualized to meet the patient’s specific needs.
The Mayo Clinic is also leveraging stem cells’ ability to regenerate tissues to promote healing. For sports injury therapies stem cells are harvested from the patient’s bone marrow, which also contains other potentially therapeutic cells. Stem cells are powerful, naturally occurring cells that have the ability to modify inflammation and promote natural healing. Mayo Clinic researchers obtain bone marrow from the patient’s pelvic bone, concentrate it to remove the unwanted portions, and inject it back into the injured area.
Global Stem Cells’ associate Joseph Purita, M.D., an osteopathic surgeon and pioneer in the use of stem cells and regenerative medicine techniques to treat sports injuries, uses PRP in concert with stem cells. Dr. Purita has been the focus of much attention for his breakthrough stem cell and PRP treatments to treat injured professional athletes, and has been credited for bringing orthopedic stem cell therapies into the worldwide sports injuries spotlight.
Stem Cell Treatments for Muscle Repair
Forty-five percent of all sports-related injuries involve muscle contusion and strain. Muscle tissue is composed of long, tubular cells called myoblasts—embryonic cells—that fuse to form muscle fibers. Muscle stem cells—also called satellite cells—are responsible for muscle repair. When an individual exercises, muscle fibers become damaged and send signals to these satellite cells, which are perched on top of the muscle tissue. In response to the damaged muscle tissue signals, the satellite cells become activated, begin to divide, replicate themselves and generate new myoblast cells. These myoblasts are then integrated and repair the damaged muscle tissue. Recently, scientists have discovered that satellite cells from older mice are not able to regenerate muscle as efficiently as those from young mice, a discovery that led researchers to identify drugs that restore the function of older cells, which could be used in the future to enhance muscle tissue repair.
Mesenchymal Stem Cells (MSCs) used for injury repair
Mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) are (adult) tissue stem cells that are not only able to produce copies of themselves, they can divide and form bone, cartilage, muscle, and adipose (fat) stem cells when cultured under certain conditions. MSCs are attractive to researchers and clinicians since they can be readily isolated from a variety of patient tissues, including fat. Once harvested and, if necessary, elevated to high numbers in culture, MSCs can be re-introduced to the patient from whom they were harvested, eliminating any risk of immune-rejection. In response to injury, MSCs produce proteins that appear to alter the surrounding environment and promote healing and tissue regeneration, such as anti-inflammatory factors, angiogenic factors (which promote the growth of new blood vessels) and other factors that stimulate local, tissue-specific stem cells.