Stem Cells for Joint Pain

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Stem cell treatments are all the rage right now. If you watch TV or listen to the radio, then chances are good that you have heard a commercial touting the benefits of this new treatment. It sounds like a wonder cure, but what does the science actually say?

What are Stem Cells?

Stem cells are the precursors to all other cell types. After they divide stem cells have the potential to grow into any other cell type in the body. A stem cell could become a muscle cell, nerve cell, bone cell, or cartilage cell. This is important because stem cells could be used to treat diseased or damaged body parts.

Where Do Stem Cells Come From?

  • Stem cells can be found in the bone marrow of adults
  • Umbilical cord blood
  • Embryos that are 3-5 days old

What Does the Research Show?

The most recent study conducted on stem cells and joint pain was performed in 2013 and the results were published in the periodical “Stem Cells and Development.” This study looked at patients with rheumatoid arthritis. When compared to a control group who received medications only, the group who also received stem cells experienced remission of their disease. The effects lasted for 3-6 months and there were no side effects reported. Although the results of this study are encouraging, it is important to remember that most people with arthritis suffer from osteoarthritis which is very different from rheumatoid arthritis.

Oversight

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is responsible for regulating stem cell therapies to make sure the treatments are safe and effective. The FDA released a statement in 2019 warning consumers about the risks of unapproved stem cell therapies. If you are interested in this new therapy, be sure to talk to your doctor to understand the risks involved.