Vail Daily health column: New hope for old joints
Ryan Summerlin March 25, 2013
Stem cell therapy is a minimally-invasive procedure that offers people suffering from joint pain the opportunity to use their bodies’ own cells to repair and replace damaged joint tissue. An alternative to joint replacement surgery, stem cell therapy can be used on any joint. Tendonitis or injuries to the Achilles tendon are also good responders to the treatment. Dubbed “the 21st Century penicillin,” stem cell therapy now offers hope and unprecedented opportunities for healing. Medicine is entering a new era.
While in the news for years, stem cell discussions focused on the use of human embryos, producing much debate. Now, however, most scientists and physicians use adult stem cell harvesting and re-implantation, extracting adult stem cells from a person’s own body – not from human embryos and fetuses.
Unfortunately the United States had a ban on stem cell research and, therefore, American medicine was to some extent 10 to 15 years behind its European counterparts. In 2009, however, the United States created a “minimally manipulated” threshold, giving the U.S. Food and Drug Administration authority over the regenerative application of stem cell therapy. The new rules have allowed the restorative field to catch up with similar practices in Europe.
Despite the inaccessibility of U.S. stem cell therapy, athletes turned to stem cell therapy to treat their sports injuries by opting for procedures done outside the U.S. In 2010/11 athletes Bartolo Colon, C. J. Nitkowski, Peyton Manning and Kobe Bryant all had stem cell therapy. The list continues to grow.
Ongoing clinical trials hopefully will soon release findings to support more widespread use of stem cell therapy in the U.S. as a replacement for invasive, more painful traditional methods of treating numerous chronic conditions.
Successfully used by U.S. veterinarians since 2003, today stem cell therapy is a common veterinary practice. In an article on Popular Science’s website, Bob Harman, CEO and founder of Vet-Stem, a company that treats racehorses with stem cell therapy, states his company has treated 4,141 horses for soft-tissue injuries such as tendinitis and muscle contusions since 2003 and “70 to 80 percent have healed completely,” he wrote.
Ravel, a horse competing in dressage at the 2012 London Olympic Games, is currently the highest scoring horse on Team USA. Before his success, he underwent stem cell therapy to treat a leg injury that otherwise could have ended his career.
Stem cells are capable of surviving over long periods of time and divide to make additional stem cells. They are plentiful in the body and are responsible for tissue maintenance functions. Because of these inherent characteristics, stem cells have great potential as a therapeutic, medicinal agent for use repairing, restoring, replacing, and regenerating cells that have been damaged by injury or normal wear.
Clearly, the focus of medicine is shifting from treating symptoms to providing restorative and regenerative solutions to stimulate the body’s ability to heal itself. With most patients reporting excellent pain improvement, there leaves little doubt that stem-cell therapy is reshaping the way we approach orthopedics.
Dr. Scott Brandt of ThriveMD offers regenerative and restorative medicine, specializing in minimally-invasive stem cell therapies to repair traumatic joint injuries. Brandt is one of the few physicians in the nation trained in same-day, in-office stem cell therapy. For more information call 970-766-8245 or visit www.thrivemdvail.com.