Science Lab

Stem Cell Therapy

Stem cells are cells that can self-renew and differentiate into other cells. Stem cell therapy has recently generated a lot of interest and patients hope that it can help them quicker return to activities, whether they suffer from soft tissue injuries or injuries with unpredictable treatment. Stem cell therapy has a lot of potential, but currently there is insufficient evidence on its efficacy. 

The current areas of study include:

  • Criteria for classifying populations of stem cells

    • There currently is a lot of variability and heterogeneity in stem cell populations. For example, minimally manipulated populations that come from adipose tissue and bone marrow are much different than lab populations of stem cells, where stem cell populations specifically are isolated and undergo culture expansion.

    • Many of the studies which have shown benefit have used the lab prepared cell lines, whereas many treatments available to patients utilize their own cells (minimally manipulated).

    • Future study will help us know how to apply the knowledge from these studies to specific patients and their illnesses.

  • Methods to characterize the qualities of a cell population

    • Different cell populations may be used for different functions, from cell proliferation and matrix synthesis to the inhibition of apoptosis. 

  • Effect of other biologic compounds on the stem cells once injected

    • Mediators or signals like cytokines and growth factors work with the stem cells and may need to be placed with the cells to harness the full capabilities of these cells, yet we do not know which compounds or which quantities of them will be beneficial.

 

  • Role of Immune cells in stem cell therapy

    • Immune cells play an important role in the initiation and regulation of healing. They can cause inflammation, which is crucial in the early stages of healing but can interrupt healing when present in later stage. Research into the roles and requirements for inflammatory and anti-inflammatory cells is ongoing.

With all factors in consideration, stem cell therapy is both a controversial and promising treatment for patients!

References:

  1. Rodeo SA. Cell therapy in orthopaedics: where are we in 2019? Bone Joint J. 2019 Apr;101-B(4):361-364. doi: 10.1302/0301-620X.101B4.BJJ-2019-0013.R1. PMID: 30929493.