The FDA Vs Stem Cell Treatments In The US
Stem cell therapy has become a popular type of treatment for a number of conditions, including to assist in the regeneration of injured tissue or diseases cells in the human body. This therapy is classified as regenerative medicine. Several advancements have already been made in this medical field, and many had experienced positive results when they underwent stem cell therapy to assist in the treatment of degenerative conditions.
While stem cell therapy has been proven to provide an effective protocol in the recovery of stroke, neurological issues, and even to assist in repairing the damage that was dealt by a heart attack, recent reports have caused many to view these treatments in a negative perspective. This is due to the warnings that were recently issued by the FDA. Even though some have experienced side-effects due to the use of stem cell therapy, it is important to note that there are facilities within the US that can provide professional services that help to minimize the risk of these adverse events.
The FDA On Stem Cell Therapy In The United States
The Food and Drug Administration of the United States is involved in the analyzing and approval of medications and medical procedures that may be offered to patients in the country. To date, the FDA has shown some interest in stem cell therapy, providing approval for several clinical trials that looked at how effective this treatment is in providing a regenerating effect on the impact that certain conditions has in the human body. Only one particular treatment that involves stem cell therapy has been officially approved by the Food and Drug Administration, however.
Within the last few months, we have seen several concerning publications made by the FDA regarding stem cell therapies, reducing the hope that some patients might have gained.
On the 25th of June, 2019, the FDA published a statement that described a permanent injunction that will occur with the many stem cell clinics in the country. The FDA has stated that the action taken from their side is to assist in providing a layer of protection for patients, due to the risks involved with undergoing treatments that utilize products that have not gone through any type of approval process.
The specific company that was targeted in this statement and by the actions that were taken by the FDA is known as US Stem Cell Clinic LLC. The court ruled in favor of the FDA and US government earlier in June, finding the defendants, being US Stem Cell Clinic LLC, guilty of the claims that were made against them.
An earlier publication also confirmed that the Federal court has decided to rule the misbranding of the stem cell products released by the US Stem Cell Clinics company as a violation of laws that have been implemented to protect the people of the country.
News publications have also announced that the regulations and guidelines that have now been set out by the FDA might cause a significant decline in the availability of stem cell treatments to patients in the United States. The companies that have been targeted through these particular actions that the FDA has taken are primarily those that have been marketing products that have not gone through approval phases – and these products have been found to put the patient’s health at risk.
The Role Of Stem Cell Therapy In Disease
While some companies have been found guilty of using unapproved and even misleading products on patients, promoted as stem cell therapy, it is important to consider the reality of the situation as well. Stem cell therapy often referred to simply as Cell therapy, has been proven as a successful regime in the treatment of several conditions. Many of the conditions that have shown improvement with the use of this therapy were previously considered difficult, or sometimes even impossible, to effectively treat.
By 2012, the Worldwide Network for Blood and Marrow Transplantation, also known as the WBMT, announced that a total of one million stem cell therapy procedures had been done throughout the world. This was a significant milestone, and these procedures have helped to save a countless number of lives. Just in this report, the WBMT refers back to a case of Marta, a girl from Madrid, who had received stem cell therapy at a young age. This treatment was provided to Marta after she was diagnosed with Leukemia. In 2002, Marta was able to overcome Leukemia, thanks to the cell therapy that was provided to her.
While lymphoma and leukemia are the conditions where patients most frequently seek a clinic that can perform stem cell therapy on them, there are many other conditions that are treated with this procedure today. The perfection of the therapy has led to a treatment that can assist in reducing the effects of over 70 diseases that may otherwise have a significant impact on the human body.
GSCG Expands To Cancun, Meets The Demands Of US Patients
The Global Stem Cells Group had recently announced the opening of a new office that they have decided to establish in Cancun, Mexico. The decision was driven by the increasing demand for cell therapy procedures by patients in the United States and by the fact that there is currently a lack of facilities that are able to provide these individuals with the professional and quality services needed. Doctors specializing in regenerative medicine are also having a hard time fulfilling the needs of patients who wish to consider cell therapy as a potential treatment option.
This is not the only local office that GSCG now operates in Cancun, as the company now has two facilities within this particular location. These offices include a stem cells laboratory, as well as a general medical facility.
Over the years, GSCG has become an established name in the stem cell field, providing thousands of doctors the opportunity to offer cell therapy as a treatment option for patients with degenerative diseases. The use of this therapy may assist in the regeneration of damaged and diseased tissues in the patient’s body.
Even though a previous office had established a presence for GSCG in Cancun, it should be noted that the company announced that the opening of the new office means they have now officially created a permanent presence for the brand in the area.
The GSCG’s new facility in Cancun is equipped with the latest advancements that have been made in the field and provide quality services that ensure patients have a trusted medical facility where their patients can undergo cell therapy as part of a regenerative medicine treatment plan.
At the moment, doctors who are in the field of regenerative medicine within the United States can turn to this facility to offer their patients an additional treatment option, apart from the standard pharmaceutical protocols that have been established. The stem cell laboratory can assist in the analyzing of patient data and also in the process of finding a matching donor for the person who is in need of stem cell treatment.
GSCG’s facility is able to assist with the culturing of expanded autonomous cells, as well as other types of cells that may be utilized in the process of stem cell therapy. A detailed approach is taken, considering the age of the donor, as this would also provide an overview of the autonomous stem cell age. The patient being treated is also taken into close consideration, as there are different methods of introducing these stem cells to the body for enhanced efficacy.
A more aggressive method is often needed in those patients with conditions such as autism, Alzheimer’s disease, and kidney-related conditions. Other conditions can also be treated, such as pulmonary diseases, Parkinson’s disease. In cases of a stroke, the vascular arteries, along with the carotid artery, is targeted with the therapy for a more effective approach to assisting with the regeneration of damaged structures in the patient’s brain. This ultimately leads to a significant improvement in the delivery of stem cells to the patient’s body, which could enhance the overall efficacy expressed by the treatment.
When these procedures are provided to the patient through the GSCG, an appropriate ICU unit is made available to ensure the patient is provided with adequate care during the operation and recovery of the procedure.
The utilization of recent technological advancements at laboratories facilitated by GSCG can also assist in providing a more economical approach to cell therapy. The utilization of allogenic stem cell procedures can be addressed using techniques that will essentially offer a reduction in the costs involved.
Planar technologies may be utilized when the demand is less than one billion cells per annum, which can significantly reduce the costs of the process and, in turn, make these treatments available to patients at a lower price.
The utilization of autologous stem cell transplantation also offers an opportunity for patients to undergo stem cell therapy when a sibling does not provide an ideal match. Cells can be cultivated from the bone marrow and treated with specific drugs in order to yield targeted results. In the case of malignant cells in the body, bone marrow can be treated with monoclonal antibodies or cytotoxic drugs to target such cells when transplanted back into the patient.
Appropriate storage solutions are also taken into consideration to assist with the cultivation process, and to reduce the risk of enzymatic treatment leads to the differentiation of cells into other types. The culture condition becomes crucial for the expansion of stem cells. A PA6 conditioned medium, along with an enclosure of semi-permeable hollow fiber membranes, is one example of how the laboratory can keep certain stem cells from differentiating, while also assuring successful cultivation and expansion.
The GSCG’s Role In The New FDA Warnings
The fact that the FDA has announced the warnings against stem cell therapy products and had even taken action against a relatively popular company in the United States have now caused a limitation in access to these treatments. With a seizure of the services provided by companies that have been affected by the FDA’s actions and the knowledge of the misleading marketing information that was used in the campaigns initiated by these companies, patients might not be sure where to turn to right now.
The same problem is faced by many doctors in the field of regenerative treatments and medicine. Doctors in these fields need to ensure a facility they utilize to allow patients to undergo a treatment like a cell therapy can offer a safe procedure.
This is where the GSCG comes into the bigger picture. With the establishment of a permanent presence in Mexico, doctors are now given access to a facility that has an established history for providing quality stem cell therapy services to patients with qualifying diseases. The company is not only trusted but have been performing stem cell therapy procedures on patients that had led to successful results.
These treatments may help to assist in repairing neurological problems caused by disorders like Parkinson’s disease, stroke, or an injury to the spinal cord. They may also offer new hope to people with diabetes, heart disease, and even those who had previously suffered damage to their cardiovascular system due to a heart attack.
Even though recent publications from the FDA has caused concerns to be raised regarding stem cell therapy, many patients are still interested in undergoing these treatment procedures. A significant number of studies have provided evidence on the efficacy of treating tissue damage caused by various conditions through stem cell therapy. Patients interested in undergoing stem cell treatment are now advised to turn their interest to Stem Cells Centers in Cancun and related regions, where highly specialized and experienced doctors are able to provide a professional service.
One major aims of regenerative medicine is to replace lost tissue with new cellular material or to improve the regeneration of damaged, malfunctioning, diseases tissue and organs using stem cell transplantation. In view of this, the discovery of Extracellular vesicles (EVs) in the twentieth century have being considered as significant factors in inflammation and immune responses, antigen presentation, immunomodulation, coagulation, tissue regeneration, organ repair, cell-cell communication, senescence, proliferation and differentiation in the body . Extracellular vesicles are believed to be involved in many biological processes and they can be modified to contain specific proteins, genetic lipids, and genetic materials including messenger RNA (mRNA), microRNA (mRNA), and other small non-coding RNAs, and genomic DNA (gDNA) from their progenitor cell.
Extracellular vesicles are classified into two groups which include; exosomes and ectosomes . Exosomes are characterized with cup-shaped morphology, appearred as flattened spheres with diameters ranging from 30 to 150 nm. Similarly, exosomes have a characteristic lipid bilayer which has an average thickness of ∼5 nm. . Thus, the lipid components of exosomes include ceramide (sometimes used to differentiate exosomes from lysosomes), cholesterol, sphingolipids, and phosphoglycerides with long and saturated fatty-acyl chains. The exosome is formed or derived from a multivesicular body (MVB) when the MVB fuses with the plasma membrane and is released into the extracellular environment.
Diagrammatic representation of a medium size Exosome.
Exosomes contain many types of biomolecule, including proteins, carbohydrates, lipids and nucleic acids which vary depending on the EV’s origin, its physiological and pathological state, and even the precise cellular release site. Thus, the protein composition within can also mark the existence of disease pathologies such as inflammatory diseases; however, exosomes also contain a number of common proteins as well as those that participate in vesicle formation and trafficking. Furthernore, exosome plays a role in intercellular communication by carrying proteins and RNAs between neighboring cells or even to distant organs, they also bind to cell membranes through receptor– ligand interaction and mediate antigen presentation, cancer progression etc.
Various techniques have being developed for the isolation of exosomes which includes; ultracentrifugation-based isolation techniques, size-based techniques, precipitation techniques, immune-affinity capture-based techniques, and some novel combination techniques . Exosomes primarily exist in pellets after centrifugation 100000–200000×g and the use of Ultracentrifugation and ultrafiltration can be used to obtain purified exosomes in the laboratory, but this technology is difficult to apply on a large scale .
Exosomes can be stored at 4°C for up to 1 week for short-term while it can be stored at -80°C for long-term by suspending it in phosphate buffered saline.
More importantly, growing evidence has also suggested that exosomes play a key role in facilitating tumorigenesis by regulating angiogenesis, immunity, and metastasis. Circulating exosomes in body fluids and blood in particular are potentially non-invasive or minimally invasive biomarkers for early diagnosis and prognosis of various types of cancer. As the first step towards improving human health, exosomes have to be reliably and efficiently isolated from complex biological matrices like blood, urine, and cerebrospinal fluid since they are currently tested as next-generation biomarkers in those body fluids.
In conclusion, it is advantageous to use exosomes for cell based treatments because the use of exosomes can avoid problems associated with the transfer of cells, which may already have damaged or mutated DNA . Also, exosomes are small and can easily circulate through capillaries, whereas the cells used in other cell-based therapies, such as MSCs, are too large to go through capillaries, and thus cannot get beyond first pass capillary beds, such as the lungs.
The level of MSCs in cell-based therapies may quickly diminish after transplant while, exosomes can achieve a higher “dose” than the transplanted MSCs . Similarly, exosomes can also be utilized to tackle toxicity and immunogenicity problems resulting from such biomaterial treatments as nanoparticles .
Ø Immuno-modulatory and anti-inflammatory properties of Exosomes could be the potential biological mechanisms for clinical treatment to promote bone regeneration. 
Ø Adipose-derived stem cell-derived exosomes promote fracture healing in animals by binding to polylactic acid-glycolic acid scaffolds.
Ø Exosome can be used for the treatment of chronic kidney disease, type 1 diabetes mellitus, and skin damage .
Ø MSCs-derived exosomes have shown therapeutical benefits in stroke and intravenous administration of MSCs-derived exosomes induced an increase of neurogenesis, neurite remodeling, and angiogenesis. 
Ø Administration of MSCs-derived exosomes’ has being observed in a traumatic brain injury model by showing an inflammation reduction and good outcomes.
Ø The injection of MSCs-derived exosomes has also been shown to be a possible treatment for spinal cord injury (SCI), by reducing inflammation and by promoting neuro-regeneration in rats after injury .
Ø Exosomes can be used as a delivery system of therapeutic signals or drugs due to their low immunogenicity, ability to cross the blood-brain barrier (BBB), and long half-life in circulation.
Over the last decade, cellular therapy has developed quickly at the level of in vitro and in vivo preclinical research and in clinical trials. Thus, one of the types of adult stem cells that have provided a great amount of interest in the field of regenerative medicine due to their unique biological properties is Mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs).
Mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) are known to be multipotent stromal cells that can differentiate into a variety of cell types which include osteoblasts (bone cells), chondrocytes (cartilage cells), myocytes (muscle cells) and adipocytes (fat cells which give rise to marrow adipose tissue). Furthermore, MSCs are responsible for tissue repair, growth, wound healing and cell substitution resulting from physiological or pathological causes; they have various therapeutic applications such as in the treatment of central nervous system afflictions like spinal cord lesions (1). Similarly, they are characterized by an extensive capacity for self-renewal, proliferation, potential to differentiate into multiple lineages and their immune-modulatory role on various cells.
Mesenchymal stem cells have the ability to expand in many folds in culture while retaining their growth and multilineage potential. Also, they can be identified by the expression of many molecules including CD105 (SH2) CD73 and CD34, CD45. Thus, these properties of MSCs make these cells potentially ideal candidates for tissue technology.
In addition, it has been discovered that MSCs, when transplanted systemically, have the ability to transport to sites of physical harm or damage in animals, suggesting that MSCs have migratory capacity. This migration property of MSCs is important in regenerative medicine, where various injection routes are utilized depending on the damaged tissue or organ.
The first source of Mesenchymal stem cells was in the bone marrow and considered to be the gold standard for clinical research, although various other sources have being discovered which include: Adipose tissue, Dental pulp, Mobilised Peripheral blood, Amniotic fluid, Joint synovium, synovial fluid, Endosteum, Periosteum, Menstrual blood and birth-derived tissues.
Cohnheim (German Biologist) hypothesized in the late nineteenth century that fibroblastic cells derived from bone marrow were involved in wound healing throughout the body, while in 1970, Alexander Friedenstein described a population of plastic-adherent cells that emerged from long-term cultures of bone marrow and other blood-forming organs, and he showed to have colony forming capacity and osteogenic differentiation characteristics in vitro as well as in vivo upon re-transplantation.
Arnold Caplan (1991), coined the term “mesenchymal stem cell and stated that the cells as multipotent mesenchymal cell populations which can differentiate into several tissue types, and demonstrated roles for MSCs in the regeneration of bone, cartilage or ligaments in animal and clinical studies. However, the first clinical trials of MSCs were completed in 1995 when a group of 15 patients were injected with cultured MSCs to test the safety of the treatment.
According to International Society for Cellular Therapy, the proposed minimum criteria to define MSCs include the following:
(a) The cells should exhibits plastic adherence
(b) The cell should possess specific set of cell surface markers, i.e. cluster of differentiation (CD) 73, D90, CD105 and lack expression of CD14, CD34, CD45 and human leucocyte antigen-DR (HLA-DR).
(c) The cells should have the ability to differentiate in vitro into adipocyte, chondrocyte and osteoblast.
Thus, these characteristics are valid for all MSCs, although few differences exist in MSCs isolated from various tissue origins.
Mesenchymal stem/stromal cells (MSCs) can be isolated from neonatal tissues, most of which are discarded after birth, including placental tissues, fetal membranes, umbilical cord, and amniotic fluid. Placenta is an ideal starting material for the large-scale manufacture of multiple cell doses of allogeneic MSC. The placenta is a fetomaternal organ from which either fetal or maternal tissue can be isolated.
MSC derived from placenta have long-term proliferation and immunomodulatory capacity, superior to bone marrow-derived MSC. The placenta is a fetomaternal organ consisting of both fetal and maternal tissue, and thus MSC of fetal or maternal origin can be, theoretically isolated. Thus, neonatal tissues are easily available and they have biological advantages in comparison to adult sources that make them a useful source for stem cells including MSCs. They appear to be more primitive and have greater multipotentiality than their adult counterparts.
Ø MSCs have been widely used to treat immune-based disorders, such as Crohn’s disease, rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes, and multiple sclerosis.
Ø MSCs have been widely used as a treatment for numerous orthopedic diseases, including bone defects, osteoarthritis (OA), femoral head necrosis, degenerative disc, spinal cord injury, knee varus, osteogenesis imperfecta, and other systemic bone diseases.
Ø MSCs are promising cell source for treatment of autoimmune, degenerative and inflammatory diseases due to the homing ability, multilineage potential, secretion of anti-inflammatory molecules and immunoregulatory effects.
Ø MSCs play a key role in the maintenance of bone marrow homeostasis and regulate the maturation of both hematopoietic and non-hematopoietic cells.
Ø MSCs have been shown to be powerful tools in gene therapies, and can be effectively transduced with viral vectors containing a therapeutic gene, as well as with cDNA for specific proteins, expression of which is desired in a patient.
Ø It has been proved that MSCs can differentiate into insulin producing cells and have the capacity to regulate the immunomodulatory effects
- Wei X, Yang X, Han ZP, Qu FF, Shao L, Shi YF. Mesenchymal stem cells: a new trend for cell therapy. Acta Pharmacol Sin. 2013 Jun; 34(6):747-54
- Friedenstein AJ, Piatetzky II S, Petrakova KV. Osteogenesis in transplants of bone marrow cells. J Embryol Exp Morphol. 1966;16:381–90
- Friedenstein AJ, Chailakhyan RK, Latsinik NV, Panasyuk AF, Keiliss-Borok IV. Stromal cells responsible for transferring the microenvironment of the hemopoietic tissues. Cloning in vitro and retransplantation in vivo. Transplantation. 1974;17:331–40.
- Pittenger MF, Mackay AM, Beck SC, Jaiswal RK, Douglas R, Mosca JD, et al. Multilineage potential of adult human mesenchymal stem cells. Science. 1999;284:143–7.
- Caplan AI, Dennis JE. Mesenchymal stem cells as trophic mediators. J Cell Biochem. 2006;98:1076–84.
- Wang S, Qu X, Zhao RC. Clinical applications of mesenchymal stem cells. Journal ofHematology & Oncology. Apr 30, 2012;5:19.
- Dominici, M., Le Blanc, K., Mueller, I., Slaper-Cortenbach, I., Marini, F., Krause, D., Deans, R., Keating, A., Prockop, D. and Horwitz, E. (2006) Minimal criteria for defining multipotent mesenchymal stromal cells. The International Society for Cellular. Therapy position statement. Cytotherapy 8, 315–317
Chronic pain. Roughly translated as a condition of persistent misery for people. It is a serious health condition that has both physical and psychological suffering and is often associated with a specific ailment like arthritis, migraine, frozen limb, etc. People who suffer from chronic pain perceive themselves to be in a state of constant agony and distress, which can affect their ability to lead a ‘normal’ life, from being able to go to work every day to social interaction.
There are several treatment options that people resort to for managing persistent pain conditions. In this article, we talk about those treatment options with the stem cell regeneration being the most current and promising one. Also, we will discuss the potential benefits and pros and cons of regenerative medicine.
What is chronic pain and how is it caused?
During ‘PAINWeek2017’ in Las Vegas, Dr. Jay Joshi, MD, explained the connection between inflammation and pain. He states that inflammation is triggered by various chemical and physical stimuli, and is a normal phenomenon of the body to protect the injured area and speed up the healing process. When inflammation exceeds its normal extent, it conversely delays the healing process and forms this cycle of non-resolving inflammation that leads to chronic pain.
Chronic pain is a multifactorial condition. It can be caused by medical harm, injury or nerve damage. However, it can also be caused by environmental factors, for example, back pain due to incorrect posture, or physiological factors such as aging, weak bones.
Common conditions that are related to chronic pain are:
- Osteoarthritis: the degeneration of cartilage in the joint and the corresponding bones, leading to pain and stiffness mainly in thumb, knee and hip joints.
- Migraine: a half-sided recurrent headache that gives a throbbing sensation and is accompanied by blurred vision and nausea.
- Multiple Sclerosis: a chronic, progressive condition that involves nerve cell sheath damage in the spinal cord and brain. Its symptoms include severe fatigue, speech disturbances, blurred vision and numbness.
- Neuropathy: a condition that involves damage to the peripheral nerves causing weakness, pain and numbness, particularly in the hands and feet.
- Fibromyalgia: a soft tissue disorder that involves widespread musculoskeletal pain also characterized by fatigue, sleep disturbance and mood swings.
According to a 2016 analysis by the National Health Interview Survey, approximately 50 million Americans suffer from chronic pain. It is considered to be one of the most common conditions that medical treatment is sought out for. Some of the repercussions of chronic pain that agonize people are:
- Depression and mood swings
- Poor performance
- Poor social life
- Restricted mobility
- Poor self-perception about life
- Dependence on opioids
Although it is necessary to diagnose and treat the underlying cause of pain, doctors deal with pain as a separate entity and provide symptomatic treatments to save patients from the continuous discomfort it brings.
Management of Chronic Pain
Some of the common management strategies adopted by doctors are:
There are several over the counter pain killers available that are widely used by patients with chronic pain. These include paracetamol, acetaminophen, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), aspirin, ibuprofen, naproxen, etc.
Although analgesics are considered safe, long term usage can produce a number of side effects. It can lead to liver damage and is specifically dangerous for patients with liver cirrhosis. Likewise, NSAIDs are known to affect the kidneys and increase the risk of a heart attack.
Drugs that are originally used to treat epilepsy can also be an effective management strategy against chronic pain. For example, the second-generation anticonvulsants Gabapentin and Lyrica are approved by FDA for the treatment of pain. First-generation anticonvulsants such as carbamazepine and phenytoin are also considered effective. However, these first-generation drugs have more side effects when compared to second-generation drugs. They can cause side effects like ataxia, liver damage, sedation, etc.
Doctors also prescribe antidepressants for the treatment of pain. These comprise of tricyclics like amitriptyline, imipramine or doxepin. These drugs can be given to patients with or without depression as it has distinct effects of pain relief and mood elevation.
Similarly, pain in fibromyalgia and diabetic nerve pain are treated with other types of antidepressants – serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs) such as venlafaxine and duloxetine. These are equally effective as tricyclics but have comparatively milder side effects.
Opioids such as codeine, morphine, oxycodone, etc. are very effective against severe chronic pain conditions. However, these drugs are not available over the counter and not provided by the pharmacist without prescription because of their risk of addiction.
Nonetheless, experts state that if the dose is vigilantly managed, their potential benefits can outweigh the risks. That is why doctors carefully observe patients prescribed with opioids for chronic pain to avoid any untoward dependence.
If traditional medicine hasn’t worked, many people often resort to other naturally occurring remedies for its cure. Alternative medicine varies from herbal remedies and therapies that are naturally available in plants that have curative properties. Cannabinoids, Akuamma and Kratom plants are a few examples with such characteristics that are currently trending.
Could Stem Cell Regeneration (SCR) be the answer?
As the human central nervous system matures and becomes more complex, the regenerative ability of the body further reduces. Regenerative medicine caters for this by focusing on the 3 Rs; Replacement, Repair, and Restoration of tissues and their function. This can be directed for the treatment of non-resolving inflammation by generating ex vitro cells, tissues or organs which can then be transplanted into the body.
Stem cell therapy is a unique model of treatment that replaces injured or lost cells, which can help 1.5 billion people that are experiencing chronic pain worldwide, with 23-26% of the people suffering from lower backache alone. According to Dr. Jay in ‘PAINWeek2017’, there are two types of stem cell regenerative therapy: Autologous and Non-Autologous.
In autologous SCR, mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) are derived from adipose tissue of the patient and transplanted back into the injured area, where they potentially differentiate into the respective cells. For the other type, the MSCs are derived from embryonic tissues.
Research published in Pain Physician Journal in 2017 shows that MSC therapy is a great alternative because they are readily available. In addition, their homing potential is also considered a pro and they can be grown using standard culture techniques. It has also shown that autologous SCR is potentially safe for both humans and animals.
There has been a reported reduction from pre to post-operative pain with the use of SCR. However, various complications have been acknowledged in studies. Firstly, there’s a risk of tumor formation at the site of transplantation. Secondly, there have been instances of undesired bone formation. Furthermore, there is also a risk of abnormal immune reactions to occur.
The effective results of cell-based therapy are promising, with evident results in the treatment of chronic pain conditions in osteoarthritis, degenerative disc disease as well as neuropathic pain. However, there is still a need for advanced clinical research to deepen the understanding of the mode of action of MSCs and their potential outcomes inside the human body.
As physicians, we are constantly dealing with sports injuries. While they are typically not seen as life-threatening with high chances of recovery, they could potentially cause further problems down the line for the patient. Sports injuries can also take months to heal and getting patients back on their feet can take a lot of time, effort and money, which can be frustrating for patients who want to get back to playing football every weekend or for those who have a skiing holiday booked in the next month.
Recently, there has been a massive surge in the use of stem cells as an alternative treatment to common sports injuries. This article aims to outline the benefits and risks attached to using stem cells and how this alternative treatment may help patients who are suffering from common sports injuries.
What Are The Most Common Sports Injuries?
We are constantly treating sports injuries on a regular basis. Some of the most common sports injuries doctors typically deal with are:
An ankle sprain occurs when the ligaments in the ankle are stretched and eventually torn due to twisting or falling onto the foot. Ankle sprains are common among athletes and sports enthusiasts, however, if left untreated, the ankle can weaken, making it more vulnerable to further damage. This leads to long term problems such as chronic ankle pain, arthritis, and ongoing instability.
A sprained ankle can be easily diagnosed when we see displays of swelling, bruising, stiffness and pain when we attempt to touch or move the ankle.
A groin pull is basically a groin strain. Strains occur when the muscles are overstretched, moving in directions that are not normal for them or pulled too forcefully or suddenly. This leaves them torn and damaged and results in tenderness and bruising in the groin and inner thigh area. This injury is common in athletes that play sports which require a lot of quick side-to-side movements.
A groin pull can be easily diagnosed after a thorough physical examination of the symptoms and possible tests such as x-rays and MRI’s.
A hamstring strain occurs when the three muscles in the back of the thigh are overstretched from movements such as hurdling and kicking the leg out sharply. As these muscles are naturally tight and susceptible to sprains, it can take from six to twelve months to heal and are vulnerable to recurring injuries. Poor or lack of stretching are the likely causes of a pulled hamstring.
Shin Splints is an inflammation of the muscles in the lower leg when they are overworked and stressed. Shin splints are often found in athletes that engage in sports that require a lot of running, dodging or quick stops and starts.
Knee injury: ACL tear
An ACL knee injury is a tear or sprain of the ligament that holds the leg bone to the knee. Sudden stops or changes in direction can tear the ACL and make that dreaded “pop” sound. Almost immediately, the knee will swell, feel unstable and be too painful to bear weight. This injury is common in athletes that engage in sports such as soccer, basketball, and downhill skiing.
ACL tears are commonly seen as a severe sports injury and can be traditionally treated with rehabilitation programs and surgery to strengthen or completely replace the torn ligament.
Knee injury: Patellofemoral Syndrome
Patellofemoral Syndrome occurs when repetitive movements of the kneecap (patella) are made against the thigh bone (femur) which damages the tissue. This knee pain is common among young adults and can be caused by a number of factors such as weakness in the thigh or buttock muscles, tight hamstrings, short ligaments around the kneecap or alignment problems through the feet.
Tennis Elbow (epicondylitis)
Tennis Elbow is common for athletes that play sports such as tennis or golf that require the player to ‘grip’ tightly and repetitively for an extended amount of time. This results in the ligaments of the forearm becoming strained and inflamed, making it painful to make wrist or hand motions.
What Are The Traditional Treatment Options & Management Strategies For Sports Injuries?
Traditional treatment methods and strategies for treating mild sports injuries such as sprains and strains can be done at home. Traditional advice given by doctors can include taking rest, applying ice to reduce the swelling and dressing the injury with compression bandages to support and assist healing. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen may also be prescribed to help reduce swelling and to relieve pain.
Moderate severity injuries may be traditionally treated with immobilization strategies such as the use of crutches or a cast brace to assist the ankle to heal for the first few weeks. This may be followed with rehabilitation exercises to strengthen the ankle and prevent stiffness and future problems.
Severe sports injuries such as knee injuries are traditionally treated with surgery or rehabilitation programs to replace or restore the torn ligaments or muscles. This also goes for those patients who experience persistent problems after months of nonsurgical treatment.
Whatever the severity level of the sports injury, the healing process can take up to several months before the muscle restores to its natural condition. Injuries can also leave muscles and ligaments permanently weakened and susceptible to further injury.
Is Stem Cell Therapy An Option For Treating Sports Injuries?
The use of stem cells to treat sports injuries are becoming more popular due to its ability to grow new blood vessels that facilitate faster and better healing, decrease or prevent inflammation and release proteins (cytokines) that can slow down tissue degeneration and reduce pain. Sports injuries that include damage to tendons, ligaments, muscles, and cartilage are reported to be seeing the best results from stem cell therapy.
Dr. Bill Johnson, MD of Innovations Medical sees stem cell therapy as a revolutionary alternative to painful surgery and long recovery and states that,
“Patients who undergo stem cell therapy for their sports injury report a reduction in their painful symptoms and increase range of motion and increased mobility. Stem cell therapy helps to quickly reduce joint inflammation, and many patients see improvements in 1 to 2 days. Anti-inflammatory results of the procedure can last for 2 to 3 months and many patients see a gradual improvement in their condition over time.”
Even celebrity athletes such as Peyton Manning and Ryan Tannehill have used stem cell treatment in conjunction with traditional treatments with success. Stem cells are placed directly into the joint via surgical application or injection to aid quicker healing and promote the growth of cells needed to restore strength and flexibility in muscles and ligaments.
However, using stem cells as an alternative method to treat sports injuries is still a controversial subject and is very much still debated among medical professionals. Research is still undergoing to show whether or not stem cell therapy is the best solution. Critics of this therapy argue the fact that stem cell therapy doesn’t work any better than a placebo and that there is no clear evidence that this type of therapy is safe. Unwanted side effects can include swelling and pain and if stem cells are used from other sources or manipulated in any way, this can result in a higher risk of developing tumors.
Although a rare neurologic condition, Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) is the most common type of Motor Neuron Disease (MND), a condition that affects the voluntary muscles. This is a progressive disorder that leads to muscle weakness and depletion due to nerve dysfunction.
ALS is also called Lou Gehrig’s disease, named after the football player who had this condition. The literal meaning of Amyotrophic is ‘no muscle nourishment’ which becomes the cause of muscle atrophy. ‘Lateral’ refers to the group of nerves in the spinal cord that sends signals to the muscles. It is these nerves that degenerate, leading to sclerosis in this region. In later stages, this affects the nerves that control breathing and hence can be fatal.
The initial symptoms of ALS include stiffness and muscle weakness, which gradually involves all the muscles under voluntary control. The affected regions and progressive pattern vary from one person to another. Some having difficulty holding a pen or a cup while others finding difficulty speaking, chewing or even talking. Thus, ALS is an ailment that affects daily life and makes simple tasks painful and troublesome.
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 14,500 to 15,000 people had ALS in the United States in 2016, with approximately 5000 people having a confirmed diagnosis for the condition annually. Although the average survival rate is three to five years, patients can live for ten years or more.
Are there different types of ALS?
Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis has two types:
Sporadic ALS: this is the most common one and affects 95% of sufferers. This type occurs without a clear cause.
Familial ALS (FALS): This type occurs in 5-10% of sufferers. This type of ALS is genetic and runs in families. This occurs due to abnormal changes to a gene that is then passed in generations.
What are the symptoms of ALS?
Early signs and symptoms might be unnoticeable and become perceptible after some time. Most clinical signs are evident of upper motor neuron and lower motor neuron lesion. The limb onset ALS (70%) involves initial symptoms in the limbs while the bulbar onset ALS (25%) is characterized by speech and swallowing problems. This is followed by weakness in the limbs later. The remaining 5% of the patients have respiratory involvement in the early period. 
Most common symptoms include:
- Muscle weakness in the limbs (distal or proximal)
- Asymmetric progressive muscle wasting
- Difficulty in motor activities like walking, talking, chewing
- Weakness in arms, legs, hands, and feet
- Muscle cramps and twitching
- Slurred speech
- Emotional liability (episodes of uncontrolled laughing and crying)
- Difficulty in maintaining posture and gait
- Difficulty in breathing and swallowing
With the progression of the disease, symptoms may spread to all parts of the body. In some patients, frontotemporal dementia may occur resulting in poor memory and decision-making abilities.
What Causes ALS?
The exact cause of ALS has not been known by scientists to date. However, research is being carried out to understand what causes ALS. There are several different factors such as:
Studies have shown that 5 to 10% of cases of ALS are caused by genetic mutations. For example, changes to the gene that makes SOD1 protein causes damage to motor neurons.
No major association has been established between environmental factors like toxins, viruses, diet or physical trauma and the risk of development of ALS. However, there is ongoing research on the subject. Studies have shown that some athletes are at a higher risk of acquiring ALS due to vigorous physical activity.
Glutamate is the neurotransmitter that is in control of signals to and from the brain. Accumulation of this neurotransmitter within the spaces surrounding the nerves damages them.
Research has also shown mitochondrial structural and functional abnormalities, as well as defects in axonal structure and transport, could be the causative agents for ALS.
How Do We Diagnosis ALS?
When it comes to diagnosis, there are no specific tests that can provide a definitive diagnosis for ALS. However, doctors conduct a series of tests to rule other similar diseases. A full medical history check and a neurologic examination are undertaken at regular intervals to assess the progressive worsening of symptoms.
Running the following Image testing diagnostic tests can help reach a diagnosis:
- Electromyography (EMG) – EMG records the electrical activity of the muscle fibers.
- Nerve Conduction Study (NCS) – NCS assesses the electrical activity of the nerves and muscles.
- Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) – MRI rules out other possible conditions such as a tumor or cyst in the spinal cord, cervical spondylosis, or a hernia in the neck that could be causing the nerve compression.
Laboratory tests such as blood screening and urine tests can also be carried out so that other diseases can be eliminated.
What Are The Treatment Options & Management Strategies For ALS?
ALS is managed through a multidisciplinary approach.
Unfortunately, there is no definitive cure for the disease at this time. Management of ALS is done through symptomatic treatment to ease the condition of the patients and prevent unnecessary complications:
Support – Physicians, psychologists, speech therapists, nutritionists, and home care assistance all play a vital role in making life easier for patients with ALS.
Medication – Riluzole (Rilutek) and Edaravone (Radicava) are the drugs approved by the U.S Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for treating ALS. Riluzole is believed to reduce glutamate levels thereby, decreasing damage to the motor neurons. Edaravone acts an antioxidant and is believed to expel free radicals and reduce the oxidative stress in the motor neurons.
Lifestyle Habits – Physiotherapists can recommend exercise and physical activity like walking, swimming, and bicycling that may improve muscle strength and help elevate mood without overstressing the muscles.
Speech Therapy – therapists can help patients with ALS to employ strategies to speak clearly. They may also recommend computerized aids such as speech synthesizers and eye-tracking technology to help people learn ways for responding by nonverbal means.
Diet – Nutritionists may formulate a diet plan for patients, which consists of food that is easy to swallow and provides enough nourishment and calories for the patients to maintain adequate energy levels and to prevent excessive weight loss
Breathing Support – Patients with ALS may suffer from shortness of breath and difficulty breathing during physical activity or while lying down. If this is the case, doctors can recommend Non-Invasive Ventilation (NIV) that provides breathing support through the nose or mouth. NIV improves quality of life and increases the number of years of survival for patients.
Is Stem Cell Therapy An Option?
As previously mentioned, there is no curable treatment for ALS available. However, scientists are researching Stem Cell Therapy as the new favorable approach in the treatment of neurologic disorders.
There is a rising interest in Stem Cell Therapy as a promising remedy for curing ALS. Mesenchymal stem cells are particularly believed to be the most suitable ones due to their availability, absence of ethical issues and positive results in various experiments.
Studies and clinical trials have begun to apprehend the benefits of MSC transplantation. They demonstrate that MSCs lead to a partial recovery of motor neurons and a delay in disease progression. Also, there has been no evidence of a major adverse effect after MSC transplantation.
When testing this newfound research on animals, the lifespan of the subjected animal has increased with MSC transplantation. These positive results have encouraged the administration of MSC in ALS patients.
However, despite the safe outcomes of MSC transplantation in humans, results show that there is only a partial improvement in ALS sufferers with only a few cases that showed a delay in disease progression. Hence, there is a need for further studies and trials on a higher number of human subjects for a better understanding of MSC effects so that more significant conclusions can be reached.
One of the treatments that the FDA approved for knee arthritis is a Hyalronic Acid (HA) injection, sometimes also known as Viscosupplementation. It has been incredibly successful for knee arthritis. In fact, so successful that many physicians are starting to use it on other parts of the body, like the hip and shoulder, which the FDA does not approve of.
HA, when injected, works like the fluid that naturally surrounds your joints. This fluid can be like a lubricant for your joints, and absorb shock, allowing bones that otherwise cause arthritis pain cause much less. Over time, it is even absorbed into the joint, which can cause the body to create a more stable cartilage all on its own.
The evidence for this treatment is astounding, with a systematic review of 76 trials, all of which were randomized controller trials. The review noted that HA, when injected, can benefit function, reduce pain, and can be a reliable and effective treatment for knee osteoarthritis.
On the other hand, there is PRP therapy. Platelet Rich Plasma, or PRP, which is a type of blood that has 6 to 10 times more platelets than what is normally found in blood. They even contain many growth factors, such as Epidermal Growth Factor, Connective Tissue Growth Factor, and many more. These can help heal injured parts of the body by using the bodies natural healing tools.
However, PRP is not regulated by the FDA, and devices that are used to make PRP require said approval. Aside from this, multiple studies shoe that PRP can be very effective in the treatment of tendon injuries, as well as for osteoarthritis. This treatment can even help in the reduction of pain. There are even more studies being conducted on whether it can help other things, such as hair regrowth, cardiac muscle repair, and even dermatologic rejuvenation.
So should you use HA injections, or PRP?
In many studies, PRP has bee demonstrated to work just as well, if not better than HA. HA is also only FDA approved for the knee, meaning that it is not approved or covered for the use in any other joint. Also, the risk of infection and rejection is far less while using PRP, as it is a substance that comes from your own body, and contains white blood cells, which can help fight infection.
PRP also saves money in the long run, as using HA in a joint other than the knee is not FDA approved or covered by insurance. As a result, it can cost your patient 1500$ or more. This can even be on top of various other charges, such as doctors visits, and even the injection itself. PRP, on the other hand, only costs from 800 to 1200$ out of pocket.
So PRP has been demonstrated to be just as effective, if not better, than HA injections when it comes to arthritis pain. It does not pose a risk for infection or and auto-immune reaction either, and is even far cheaper than HA. So picking which one to use should be a no-brainer.
Despite what the name may imply, not all people who suffer from Tennis Elbow even play tennis. In fact, most of them aren’t. Many of them can be painters, butchers, plumbers, carpenters, and even much any career which can overuse the muscles in the forearm. This can cause the tendons elbow to become painful and inflamed.
The most common treatment for Tennis Elbow after the injury has taken place is rest, anti-inflammatory medicines, and generally physical therapy if it is needed. However, this is more of a temporary fix than a longstanding one. In many cases, if untreated, the pain will worsen, and many need things such as braces for their arm, injects of steroids, and shock wave therapy. Sometimes, although not often, they might even need surgery.
Most insurance companies are able to cover this surgery, as it is deemed medically necessary. However, it does not always end up with the best results. On occasion, surgery may even leave you in more pain than you were in before, potentially causing the need for more surgeries.
So as an alternative for surgery, perhaps try PRP, or Plasma Rich Platelet Therapy? This is a pretty simple procedure that utilizes the platelets and cells in your own body to heal your arm from the inside out. We just take out a bit of your blood, put it in a centrifuge, and extract the PRP to use on your injury. After awhile, it become good as new, without any need for surgery. It also does not need any anti-inflammatory medications, which can lower the side effects that you will see from medications and multiple surgeries.
So try it out if you would like a more holistic way of healing yourself.
In popular media, the term Regenerative Medicine, or Stem Cell Therapy, are becoming buzz words. This is because the field of medicine and healthcare is expanding and advancing every day, and many new treatments for otherwise common ailments are being discovered. These conditions range from burns, joint pain, strain, and pretty much every other common ailment out there
Many patients have given up hope with trying to find traditional medicines that work. This is why many people are flocking to try Regenerative Medicine. This is also something that many people who are into holistic healing are trying, as it is simply the body working to heal itself.
Regenerative Medicine works as it takes a sample of your own blood, bone marrow, and other tissues, and then it goes through a process in which to take out a certain material known as Platelet-Rich Plasma. This PRP is then applied to the infected area, so that your body’s own platelets can work to heal your body back to full health, without having to worry about any invasive surgeries.
A good question to ask is why our body does this do this itself. Well, this is because research has shown that by isolating them, they activate, and as a result when injected back into the body start to work harder to fix the issues, such as in a joint, or helping to relieve pain. Many patients who try it say they have gotten good results from the treatment.
Many doctors predict that this therapy will help physicians provide a more non-intrusive treatment that has fewer side effects, and can be big within the coming years. Many compare it to the invention of penicillin with how important it is. It is even growing in popularity with many physicians using training courses to help their patients, leaving many of them happier and healthier.
Almost all sports medicine doctors would agree that there’s no harm in trying Platelet Rich Plasma Injections (PRP Injections) for their patients. After all, there are hundreds of thousands of cases of positive results. All it needs is research to prove it’s worth. Currently there are many independent researches going on from private funding like the one conducted by Dr. Kimberly G. Harmon M.D., director of the Primary Care Sports Medicine fellowship at University of Washington. She just recently received a gift to support her research from UW alumni who I’m guessing firmly believes in Platelet-Rich Plasma (PRP).
While the process of extracting PRP is fairly simple — there are many variants as long as platelets are above baseline levels with at least seven growth factors — many physician are still unsure about what they can and can’t do when it comes to this marvelous procedure. So today I want to take the time to shine light on the fine print.
Platelet-Rich Plasma Injections Protocol
PRP: Protocols, Technique and Safety Endorsements
Usually, the procedure requires the physician/surgeon and an assistant or two to help with the preparation of graft, the maintenance of sterile technique and saving the ultrasound images (if relevant).
There should always be a specific indication associated with a physical exam with confirmed imaging studies such as an ultrasound, Cat Scan, or an MRI before treatment.
Proper patient education and a discussion must be had with the patient as well as a signed informed consent prior to the procedure.
Contraindications reviewed prior to procedure.
The patient is to positioned in a comfortable seated or reclining position.
Sterile single needles and syringes must be used with proper handling and disposal.
Using an aseptic procedure, the proper amount of blood is then drawn from the vein for the PRP procedure.
If the blood cannot be obtained from the site the first, time a new site must be used to prevent early activation.
Using a sterile technique, transfer the tube of venous blood to the centrifuge. Platelet Rich Plasma should be acquired using a separating device created for autologous blood. Preference is always given to a closed system that will prevent exposure of the blood and its cellular modules to the open air, and permits minimal use of the tissue.
Image Guidance PRP Therapy
Real time imaging guidance using ultrasound CT, or fluoroscopy should always be used when performing a PRP injection.
If ultrasound is going to be used, the subsequent considerations need to be decided on in advance: For lengthy procedures, PRP injections near the spine and intra-articular injections sterile gel is recommended.
Always use sterile probe covers. Cleansing the probe before and after the PRP procedures and observance to sterile technique is sufficient.
Guided images and ineradicable markings of the site of the probe position and the needle entry always needs to be made before cleaning the skin where the probe and needle will be inserted.
Always apply a bandage or a dressing after the procedure to protect the entry site from germs.
The patient should be monitored for any post PRP procedure complications such as vaso-vagal.
The patients should be given their post procedure directions and precautions and any questions should be answered before they leave, they should also have emergency contact information.
Patients should also be instructed about the immobilization and any post procedure activity that is allowed and/or not allowed.
Post PRP procedure pain prescriptions need to be given to the patient before discharge and any questions they may have about the medication(s) should be answered at this time. The patient also needs to be instructed to avoid NSAIDs till they have healed, are pain free, has full function has returned to the area being treated (or at least to the limited area being treated.
Per OSHA guidelines contaminated areas must be disinfected, before the next patient uses the room (area.)
The PRP procedure must be documented in detail, which includes a procedure note that contains the following information: date, pre and post procedure diagnosis, name of the procedure, physician/surgeon(s), any assistants, whether or not anesthesia was used, and if so what type, short-term indication of the procedure, a description of the graft preparation, a description of the procedure that includes any/all guidance and instruments used.
Platelet-Rich Plasma Injections Protocol
Patients are normally re-examined in 2-6 weeks after the PRP procedure to follow-up on pain, use, the injection site and to discuss any concerns and any future course of action.
The patient response of the treatment should be recorded using authenticated outcome measures.
Any complications responses and all other relevant information should be logged into in the ICMS tracking system.
The consideration for another PRP injection should be the center of the discussion and the patient will be able to make a decision based on the outcome.
With every medical procedure universal precautions must be used including before, during and after the procedure.
Risk of infection – PRP is antimicrobial and provides effective protection against most bacterial infections except for Klebsiella, Pseudomonas, and Enterococcus.
With the graft being made entirely out of autologous it basically eliminates the apprehension for the transmission of disease unless the graft became contaminated.
Risks to Patient from the Procedure
Lack of result
Loss of limb and death are very rare but possible.
Platelet Rich Plasma: Indications
Musculoskeletal complaints, require a complete history and exam to find a diagnosis. Often times, diagnostic studies may be needed and reviewed to understand why prior treatments failed. PRP is usually considered an optional treatment for chronic and subacute conditions. Commonly, healing slows down or stops all together at the 6-12 weeks’ period following an acute or traumatic injury. If the patient has not had any improvement for over the first six weeks, it’s probable the healing period has stopped.
Platelet-Rich Plasma Injections Protocol
Platelet Rich Plasma: Contraindications
Platelet dysfunction syndrome
Localized infection at the procedure site
Patient not willing to take the risks involved with the procedure
Regular use of NSAIDs within 48 hours of the PRP procedure
HGB of < 10 g/dl
Platelet count of < 105/ul
Systemic use of corticosteroids within 2 weeks
Recent illness or fever
Cancer – particularly hematopoietic or of the bone
HGB < 10 g/dl • Platelet count < 105/ul
Corticosteroid injection at treatment site within 1 month