Stem cells for a bad hip or knee?
Whether it was a sports/work injury or arthritis, if you or someone you know suffers from a bad hip or knee or maybe “blackberry thumbs” and are faced with major surgery to replace or fix said joint, then you may be interested in what I have discovered concerning autologous mesenchymal stem cell therapy. I have high-lighted the exact term for this therapy to differentiate it from therapies using “fetal or umbilical stem cells”. There are actually many different kinds of stem cells. Autologous mesenchymal stem cells are adult stem cells from your own body, of a type that you normally produce for making new muscle, tendon, ligament, cartilage and bone cells. Last summer I heard an article on CBC Radio Canada about dogs and horses with hip dysplasia being cured of their symptoms with injections of their own or autologous stem cells. Being a candidate for an artificial hip, on a waiting list for surgery, I was intrigued enough to start searching the web. Sure enough, I found some before and after video of a dog, Dasha that had her own stem cells, isolated from fat in this case, injected into her hip joint with seemingly miraculous results and everything done with needles, no surgery (they did biopsy some sub- cutaneous fat with a scalpel in this case). And here is an outfit, Vet-Stem, that has helped horses as well as dogs and cats. Now really intrigued and saying to myself “What about me?” I looked further and was able to find quite a few web sites and clinics on-line offering similar procedures for us humans. I even found a stem cell research support organization that Dick Van Dyke is endorsing, Cell Therapy Foundation, that is promoting research into all kinds of different stem cell therapies. There is a revolution on the horizon of medical care involving autologous adult stem cells.
So what is “autologous mesenchymal stem cell therapy” exactly?
Joints, vertebral discs, tendons and ligaments are areas of relatively less blood flow which probably explains in part the reason they don’t self repair as readily as say muscle, organs or skin. Adult stem cells are the cells that do those repairs and they get to the site of repair via your blood. Other then a highly acidic western diet and performing like machines 24/7/365 with little rest, this relative lack of circulation probably explains why so many millions of people suffer from orthopedic problems. Our over worked and compromised repair system can’t keep up. The therapy is simply a method of putting your own repair stem cells from a rich source such as marrow into the area of affliction. To start, stem cells, growth factors and blood platelets need to be isolated from your blood, fat and or marrow. Many so-called “bed side draw,centrifuge and inject” clinics use fat tissue or blood as their source for stem cells. However bone marrow is the best source for mesenchymal stem cells. This can be collected with a needle, a relatively pain-free method, as it is the liquid part or aspirate of the marrow that is needed not the marrow which would involve major surgery to harvest. Blood is also collected as a source of platelets if the clinic also uses platelets in their therapy. After drawing enough marrow aspirate or fat and blood for the procedure most clinics then centrifuge these body fluids using a fairly simple bedside centrifuge unit and then immediately inject the results directly into the affected joint. However to get the best results (not all stem cells or centrifuges are created equal) the clinic should have a lab to check that not only are you getting the right stem cells, growth factors and platelets but that they are actually still alive. Another important element of the procedure that not all clinics perform is the scarification or roughing-up of the surface of the joint being treated. This is necessary as the cartilage and bone cells roughed-up in this manner will put out chemical distress signals to which the stem cells upon being injected will automatically be attracted to. This causes the stem cells to focus on the area of concern as identified by the surgeons. The clinic I will ultimately be recommending and using myself, not only has a dedicated lab, but has designed special needles for scarifying the joint as part of their on-going (non) cutting edge research. After concentrating and processing the required autologous mesenchymal stem cells, growth factors and blood platelets they are then injected into the joint using x-ray or ultrasound to guide the needle, something else not all clinics can do. End of procedure, other then a regime of heat, physio-therapy and exercise which actually augments and speeds-up the expected result. What happens next however is magical. The stem cells will literally stick to any damaged cells they encounter whether cartilage, bone or ligament and start repairing them. Even replacing worn out cartilage in arthritic joints. After a few weeks the stem cells will have repaired the damaged joint. In some cases a repeat of the procedure may be necessary to get full results depending how well you respond to the procedure. Generally the better your overall health the better you will respond. Also, this procedure is not for everybody and the results will vary from “like new” to less then 25% improvement. Any responsible clinic will vet potential candidates for the appropriateness of this procedure to them. Beware outfits that promise positive results for all comers. The clinic I will be attending vets their patients with MRIs (magnetic resonance imaging) that the patient must have done at their own expense and sent to the doctors at the clinic. This is followed by a 30 min. phone interview (the $100 charge will be applied to the procedure cost) with a clinic physician so they can assess your needs. They welcome the participation of your physician or surgeon in this interview. As a result this clinic has more then 80% of their patients reporting benefit with next to zero side effects.
So where and how much?
Unfortunately most of these clinics are off-shore, some in Europe, some in China, a few in central America The Bush ban on fetal stem cell research stifled all sorts of research into stem cells in North America. A Google search for “orthopedic stem cell therapy” or “stem cells for a bad knee” or “autologous mesenchymal stem cell therapy” will get you all sorts of hits. Most of these clinics also seemed rather expensive ($25,000+ per location) for what they were actually doing. There was one exception to both of these trends. A clinic in Colorado that also seems to be at the forefront of research into the use of autologous mesenchymal stem cells as well as growth factors and blood platelets for fixing orthopedic problems. Their fees are also very reasonable. $3000 per location,$1500 per each extra location assuming that they can draw enough marrow aspirate at one time. At this point in the article it is obvious that I have already made up my mind about which clinic I will be endorsing. However before I reveal the name of this organization I want to bemoan a few of my problems and toot my own horn.
Speaking of horns,
there was so much positive info on-line that I found myself on the “horns of a dilemma”. I had been waiting my turn for an artificial hip for more then a year. Sure enough shortly after hearing that article on CBC Radio, I received notice that my surgery was scheduled in 3 months. Now I don’t know about you, but the thought of someone that I barely know, slicing me open, deboning me like a scrawny turkey, sawing off the top of my femur to accept a ball on a stem hammered into it, grinding and drilling out my hip to accept a new socket and then slapping and sewing me back together gives me the willies. Not to mention a 1 in 200 chance of dying and all sorts of potential complications. Now, here is a treatment, though (non) cutting edge technology and not yet covered by medical insurance, that promises a much simpler, cheaper, less painful and much less invasive and therefore a much less risky alternative to surgery. It was an easy decision for me to cancel my surgery. After all, I could always fall back on the hip replacement surgery. However, I was now hoisted onto the horns of another dilemma. Being Canadian the hip replacement surgery was covered by our wonderful medical system. Autologous mesenchymal stem cell therapy is not, yet. Nor are the MRIs that I need for my initial assessment or travel and accommodation. I also have a number of “locations” needing treatment, due mostly to osteoarthritis: a bad right hip; degenerative disc disease in my lumbar causing pain and numbness; pain and restricted motion in my neck; pain and restricted movement in my hands, wrists and toes; a partially torn ligament in my left ankle. I would break this up into 2-3 sessions of treatment, concentrating on my mobility issues first. For the first session of treatments, I need to raise about $7500, probably $12-$15,000 to treat all my issues including MRIs and travel costs. I am on a very limited disability pension and it would take me a number of years to save enough to cover the costs. So, in exchange for your donations I propose to become your “stem cell guinea pig”. I will maintain this blog to help keep the public informed of the potential of this revolutionary treatment, with regular updates, before and after MRIs and videos of my progress on this medical adventure. Having a number of different orthopedic problems makes me an ideal guinea pig. If you want to know a little more about me, clink.
Long term I would like to start a national society
to lobby for funding of this treatment under Medicare in Canada. There are huge cost savings to be realized with the implementation of these procedures as well as the great relief of pain and suffering that are not addressed adequately at this time. This is the promised “medical innovation” that we need to increase quality of life for the millions of Canadians suffering from orthopedic problems while realizing dramatic savings in the cost of treatment and lost man-hours. I am recruiting membership to form a national society. We need an organization that is Canadian and nation wide with people suffering with some of the same orthopedic problems that afflict many of us on our board of directors. We also need a large membership to reflect the millions of Canadians that will benefit from this revolutionary treatment. Anyone wishing to participate in this necessary but also very exciting political organizing please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org . Also, I am starting a “stem cell guinea pig squad” of like minded people who are willing to go through the procedure and make public (anonymously if they wish) their experience to our society and on this blog.
Make me your “stem cell guinea pig”, win a Nikon.
A very kind sponsor has donated a new Nikon Coolpix L110 to my cause which I will raffle in a draw to take place at the end of August 2012 to any one donating as little as a dollar. No money? You will be entered in the draw if you “friend” me on Facebook, or join my cause page@
So if you find the information I have provided here helpful please donate and post this blog on your Facebook Wall, Twitter it or send to your contacts list. I really need your help and this information needs to be spread around. You can email me a donation at email@example.com or clink below.
Regenexx in Broomfield, Colorado is the clinic that has drawn my greatest interest in the field of autologous mesenchymal stem cell therapy for orthopedic problems. Since 2005 Regenexx physicians Christopher J. Centeno MD., John R. Schultz MD. and now Ronald W. Hanson MD. have been doing (non) cutting edge research in an effort to develop noninvasive remedies that remove, as much as possible, the knives, saws, hammers, drills,rods, wires, pins, screws and all the various models of artificial knees, hips and discs from the procedures now used. Their vision of “regenerative medicine” using stem cells and other autologous materials as the future for repair of orthopedic problems such as bad knees, hips, discs, hands, etc. contradicts the Robo Cop view of the status quo. Most of their work is done with needles some specially designed for the purpose. They have also been at the forefront of research on how mesenchymal stem cells work and how they interact with other autologous body materials such as growth factors and blood platelets. They have developed a proprietary platelet formula they call “Super Platelet Mix” which when injected into the joint with the stem cells, promotes the stem cells to replicate in-vivo or in the joint thus providing many more stem cells then a simple injection of stem cells alone. They use this formula in their new “Regenexx-SD” procedure which has reduced the procedure-time when Regenexx cultured the stem cells in-vitro or in a test tube, for up to 6 weeks to just 1-2 days. Culturing the stem cells in-vitro or in-vivo is something only Regenexx does as virtually all the other providers I have found on -line only do simple bed-side draw, centrifuge and inject which in many cases does not provide enough stem cells to do the job. They have a procedure called “Regenexx PL Disc” to help fix bulging or herniated discs impinging on nerves in the lumber area a condition that cripples many people. The joint of choice or the location that they have the most experience with are knees. They have shown some very good rates of success with knees, especially if they are consulted before tissue from a torn meniscus for instance has been removed by a surgeon. The shattered bits if left in place form a scaffold for the stem cells to rebuild on. For a complete list of Regenexx procedures clink here. Since 2005 they have performed approximately 1000 procedures on almost 500 patients with better then 80% of them reporting benefit. Regenexx has more experience in this field then any other clinic in the world.
They also have the best web-site in the world on orthopedic stem cell therapy.
And a great YouTube Channel with dozens of video lectures and testimonials from happy ex patients. They also have Facebook and Twitter accounts where you can follow their progress even closer. Dr. Centeno has also started hosting a monthly webinair to which you can receive an invitation if you subscribe to their newsletter. I caught the first one a few months back and after a short lecture on the basic principles behind autologous mesenchymal stem cell therapy, he answered all of our questions. He answered positively to my question “Would physiotherapy and exercise before as well as after (which he recommends) receiving stem cell therapy augment the success of the procedure?”. However he answered negatively when I asked him
“Have any doctors from Canada shown any interest in your work?”
I found this puzzling but typical of a group ruled by conservative institutions such as our “Colleges of Physicians and Surgeons” who sets procedural rules and limitations on practice that our doctors must follow. My surgeon, who has a very good reputation for doing successful hip and knee replacements and whom it took me almost a years wait to see the first time, gave me an appointment on very short notice, ten days, when he learned that I was having second thoughts about letting him replace my right hip. Regenexx supplies a “PDF for Physicians” which I had sent him before this appointment. When I asked him what he thought about the info I had sent him on autologous mesenchymal stem cell therapy, he said “I don’t read emails.” . Then he ventured, after I tried to give him a short explanation of the procedure, “Potions, hocus-pocus.”. When I told him that people were reporting relief from their symptoms, he said “that it could only be temporary.”, that “the stem cells would only make a thin layer of new cartilage.”. I explained that the before and after MRIs (if he had bothered to look) that Regenexx supplies in the “PDF for Physicians” shows the build up of new cartilage to thicknesses equivalent to a healthy joint. He chose to change tactics and said “I am a recent graduate of one of the most modern, up-to-date universities in Canada and I would know if there was anything out there about this stuff.” and “I don’t want you wasting your money.” When I countered by saying that the procedure for one location was only $3000 plus MRI and asked him how much the artificial hip surgery was worth, he gave-up and said “Your mind is obviously made up.” and avoided answering my question about cost. I answered him to the affirmative but told him that I wasn’t giving-up on him completely as Regenexx might not accept me as a candidate for the procedure and I might have to fall-back, so to speak, lol, on his services. He instantly offered to get me right in for surgery as soon as I changed my mind seemingly confident that would soon be the case. I then asked him whether he could approve the requisition for the MRIs that I needed to send to Regenexx so they could evaluate me as a candidate for the procedure. He said “No. They, BC Medical wouldn’t pay for MRIs that were not approved.” I made a final attempt to gain his interest by explaining that the Docs at Regenexx had a standing offer to train other physicians in their techniques and procedures. He again expressed complete disbelief in the therapy so I gave up and bid him good day. I can only think that at a sub-conscious level this fellow was afraid of the obvious threat to his particular niche in the practice of medicine, namely, highly invasive surgery to replace bad joints, tendons, discs, etc. with hardware. So as not to leave the impression that I think the medical profession in Canada is completely stuck in the muck of “status quo” and “vested interests”, I will say that my GP who is a fairly new Doc. showed great interest in the subject of stem cell therapy for orthopedic problems as well as other therapies for rebuilding heart tissue and especially nerve or spinal cord repairs. Personally I think that milestone on the medical road of progress is right around the corner.
It’s to bad Superman didn’t live long enough to benefit.
At the moment I am seeking a good price on MRIs which are priced at so much for each location. The lowest price that I have been quoted in BC so far is $650 per location. One outfit tried to say that I had 9 separate locations to be scanned X$900 = $8100 calling wrists and hands as separate and ankles and feet etc. It looks like I will have to go to the States to get a decent price for MRIs. I have seen prices as low as $365 per location on-line in Seattle. In BC there are only 7-8 clinics that provide MRI services. There appear to be dozens just south of the line so I have been getting my passport sorted out as I will need it in any case when I go to Broomfield, Colorado for the stem cell procedure at the Regenexx clinic.
If you or someone you know could benefit from this info, please donate,
which you can do by emailing your donation to firstname.lastname@example.org or clink the Donate button below. I get the whole donation if you email and most on-line bank accounts let you email money for free (I don’t need any of your bank info). Either way I will get an email notification of your donation which I will enter in the draw for the Nikon Coolpix L110. No money? You will be entered in the draw for a LIKE on Facebook, Google+, or joining my cause @ Just as important please take a few minutes to pass this blog around on Facebook, Twitter, and to anyone that you know personally with orthopedic problems. And don’t forget to join the the society drive. We will have to have a contest to pick a powerful name. Maybe “Stem Cell Guinea Pigs Of Canada”, eh.