Regenerative Medicine may be the key to curing back pain.
Q & A Session with Dr. Drew DeMann
Q. Dr. Drew DeMann, what are "stem cells"?
Dr. Drew DeMann: There are several different types of stem cells. Many people have heard of embryonic stem cells which have been controversial but another unrelated type of stem cell, "adult stem cells," are turning out to be even more interesting for those with pain or injuries. Adult stem cells are the unique cells in our bodies that are capable of repairing and regenerating any damaged tissue as we age. They have the remarkable potential to both oversee the repair of injuries by producing the necessary molecules to stimulate healing, at the same time they can actually turn into any cell type that is needed for that repair. They can become cells of the blood, heart, bones, muscles, brain, etc. These are the body's master repair / regenerative cells that can make any tissue or structure in the body like new again.
Q. Why are stem cells important for the treatment of pain or injuries as we get older?
Dr. Drew DeMann: As we age our physical bodies experience natural wear and tear. When we are young the small day to day breakdown that occurs on a microscopic level from just life, is repaired without us knowing it from these plentiful stem cells that freely circulate throughout our bodies waiting to be called upon. The problem is that as we get older many of these cells are no longer freely available to jump in and repair the damage that simple life throws at us. As we age these adult stem cells, for one thing, begin to "hide" in our bone marrow and our fat deposits (like our tummy fat) waiting for the really big problems but not the day to day stuff that winds up nagging at us. While this works for the big systemic illnesses that can kill us, it doesn't help our typical knee, shoulder, and back pain issues that really impair the quality of our lives. This is made worse by the fact that many of these conditions occur in areas with lesser blood supply. This further limits normal access to these regenerative cells.
Q. Why and how are stem cells used to treat problems like shoulder pain, knee pain, back pain and sports injuries?
Dr. Drew DeMann: Stem cells can be used to treat many of these conditions because of new breakthroughs in both gathering cells from the body and placing them with pinpoint accuracy in the areas where they are needed. New breakthroughs in cell therapies that were once reserved for professional athletes are now available in the doctor's office to harvest stem cells from either fat deposits (like the tummy) or bone marrow (like the hip). These cells can then be placed in areas where they might not naturally concentrate in large quantities. The result is that we now have the opportunity for the first time in medical history to repair the aging of our joints and bodies in a way that was only dreamt of a few years ago. These stem cells can be inserted (via a simple injection) into a damaged disc, an arthritic knee, a swollen Achilles tendon or even a torn rotator cuff to help promote healing, avoiding the need for a more invasive surgery.
Q. How are stem cells obtained?
Dr. Drew DeMann: Scientists are discovering that many tissues and organs contain a small number of adult stem cells. The process of obtaining stem cells is called harvesting. The harvesting of stem cells from the hip bone of adults is approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Another source for adult stem cells is the fat around the abdomen. Using a simple needle these areas can be sampled to obtain large quantities of stem cells. Pain is controlled by administration of a local anesthetic. Sedation (e.g., twilight sleep) is also an option for some. Obtaining stem cells is a sterile procedure performed by the doctor in the office and does not require a special trip to the hospital. Once the stem cells are obtained and they are ready for placement at the site of treatment, they are often re-administered under real-time imaging such as high-resolution ultrasound. These are new ultrasound imaging devices that have in some cases a higher resolution than an MRI machine and have the advantage of being able to help the doctor to steer the stem cells with pinpoint accuracy right in the office.
Are you a candidate for Stem Cell Treatments? Contact Manhattan Medicine at 212.935.1700 or [email protected]