Heal Thy Self — Regenerative Medicine & Stem Cell Therapy

Welcome to 2017 and the world of “regenerative medicine” and “stem cell therapy.” It’s becoming a mainstream treatment that is being used more all the time. Regenerative medicine is the term used to describe the process of using the body’s own resources to assist in healing.


Platelet Rich Plasma (PRP) involves drawing the patients own venous blood in the traditional manner, such as for standard blood test. This blood is then processed and spun in a centrifuge-type machine to separate the plasma and platelets from the whole red blood cells. The nutrient and growth factors of the platelet and plasma are then injected into the injured area of the body. Athletes used to leave the country for this treatment but is now offered domestically. It is particularly effective in treating tendon and muscle injuries, such as tennis elbow and plantar fasciitis. It is a breakthrough option for patients who have failed to get long-term relief from traditional treatments.

Bone Marrow Aspirate (BMA) is the process of taking bone marrow aspirate from the iliac crest. It is performed in a sterile office setting. Using appropriate local anesthesia, bone marrow is removed and processed in a special machine that identifies special types of stem cells, called mesenchymal stem cells. These cells are capable of accelerating the body’s natural healing processes, in this case towards a damaged joint. This process is like a “graft” because the stem cell mixture is intentionally placed back in the damaged area of the joint. These cells create a healing process that gradually and steadily leads to more clinical improvement with minimal risk and down time. BMA is an exciting treatment for the patient with arthritis who just can’t get symptoms under control, but isn’t ready to get a joint replacement.

Autologous Fat Transfer (ATF) is the new star in regenerative medicine. Research has found an abundance of stem cells available in simple subcutaneous fat located just below the skin. This fat is harvested using a technique developed for liposuction. A “mini liposuction” procedure is done in the office. The material is processed to separate the stem cells, then used in conjunction with bone marrow cells to be injected into the joint. The liposuction as well as the bone marrow harvesting procedures are painless and easily performed with local anesthesia, although oral medication is also used prior to the procedure.

Stem cell and other regenerative medicines help treat degenerative arthritis in the knee, the most common joint ailment. However, hip and shoulder joints are also becoming common. Some centers treat degenerative changes in the spine as well.

The ideal candidate for regenerative therapy has arthritis with mild to moderate changes, constant pain that cannot be managed in the usual manner, or the patient is not able to enjoy normal activities due to pain. After a stem cell or regenerative medicine treatment, change will gradually show in less than two months, although research shows that growth and healing continues for up to 12 months.

The change and improvements comes steadily and gradually to activity and pain levels. Things that were once difficult become more routine. A 65-year-old grandmother who could no longer take her grandkids to the zoo noticed that she was able to walk more with less pain. Another example is being able to work in your yard again. Other patients simply enjoy increased quality of life with the ability to do regular activities that had been avoided because of pain. Even young athletes that have to curtail their workouts due to chronic pain benefit from stem cell and regenerative medicine.

As a doctor, the joy in this is seeing patients return to a better quality of life. Advancements in regenerative medicine have made it so much easier to treat pain. Pain should not be an excuse for not being active with so many treatment options available. Be proactive and take advantage of them. Make this the year you take care of you.

Dr. Laura Lendermon is an Orthopedic physician, sports & stem cell specialist, and owner of the Orthopedic Stem Cell Center of Memphis, a division of Lendermon Sports Medicine in Collierville. For more information go to lendermonsportsmedicine.com or call (901) 850-5756.

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