Stem Cells and Cartilage Repair

On a continuing basis I see patients who come to me for “stem cell therapy” based upon their readings in the popular press or on the internet.  Even as we sit on the cusp of this new concept in medicine- that of using stem cells to regenerate body parts- it is also important to realize how early we are at either understanding or exploiting stem cells for medical treatment. For example, we all have stem cells in our bone marrow, but only about one in ten thousand  cells. It is possible to enrich this population using similar techniques that are used for platelet rich plasma, but this level of enrichment needs to be measured before we can understand what the correct “dose” would be, not to mention exactly what the correct kind of stem cells we are seeking. There are techniques for doing both of the above, but much work needs to be done. Some of these techniques, like flow cytometry, can only be performed in a sophisticated research lab.

For example, I saw on 60 minutes Jan 8.2012 yet another medical scam based upon stem cells. Desperate diseases demand desperate measures, I know, but that does not prevent quacks from taking people’s money, and to no avail for the patient. If patients are to inform their choice by using the internet, they had better do their own diligence– a very similar concept to a financial transaction.  Caveat Emptor.

Look for the following: publications in a well respected journal,  presentations at national meetings, animal models with favorable results, clinical trials sanctioned by the FDA; these will at least tell you that the concept is taken seriously.  And always remember the words of Judge Judy, “if it doesn’t sound right, it isn’t true”.