WHAT ARE STEM CELLS
Stems cells are progenitor cells that have the ability to differentiate into other types of cells. They have the ability to divide for a long period of time and given the right circumstances and conditions, they can differentiate into specialized cells with very distinct functions. Of interest to orthopedics is their ability to differentiate into bone cells, cartilage cells and connective tissue cells.
HOW ARE ADULT STEM CELLS OBTAINED
Adult stem cells are obtained from a part of the pelvis called the iliac crest. This is the area of the pelvis where we hang our belt. A needle is inserted into this bone and bone marrow is withdrawn through a needle. The stem cells are then separated from other cells with a centrifuge. This is done with an injection of a local anesthetic and it is well tolerated by patients when it is performed in the office.
WHAT ARE SOME EXAMPLES OF MUSCULOSKELETAL USAGE OF STEM CELLS
They are used for treating fractures and nonunions. A nonunion is when a fracture does not completely heal. The stem cells give rise to osteoblast, which are bone cells that when mature will form more bone.
Articular cartilage is the cartilage that coats the end of our bones that comprises our joint surface. It is the thinning and loss of this that is what causes arthritis. Stem cells have been used to treat the thinning of articular cartilage and restore the thickness and delay the onset of arthritis.
LIGAMENTS AND TENDONS
The use of stem cells for ligament and tendon injuries can potentially quicken the healing time of ligament and tendon injuries.