There has been a major change in thinking about how a Mesenchymal Stem Cell functions as I have touched on in recent blogs. The focus of research has been on their potential to differentiate into multiple tissues such as cartilage and bone. This has led to a vast body of work dedicated to the potential of the MSC for tissue engineering or regenerative medicine in musculoskeletal applications. More recently, the emphasis has changed from the Mesenchymal Stem Cell’s functional differentiation to a greater emphasis on a secretor of molecules. As recent as three years ago it was thought that the MSC when concentrated and placed into a joint would survive and become a dynamic part of that tissue. The survival of implanted cells is now viewed with increasing doubt but we continue to observe major benefits to the arthritic joint from intervention with Bone Marrow Concentrate. It is becoming clearer that the real function of the MSC is to regulate the immune system and to secrete molecules that direct the behavior of the resident cells. In this role, the Mesenchymal Stem Cell serves as a conductor, a medicinal stem cell effectively acting like a growth factor factory or drug store.

It is what the cells secrete rather than the cell actually morphing into cartilage in an arthritic joint. When Bone Marrow Aspirate is concentrated, the implanted cells produce several soluble mediators that initiate or enhance the healing process. The exact growth factors and cytokines being expressed by the cells still haven’t been defined.

Let’s explore how this coincides with the Regenexx SD algorithm. We anticipated the future when we introduced the Same Day Bone Marrow Aspirate Concentrate program three years ago. It is well accepted that an acute inflammation is needed to initiate a healing response; hence the first step in the Regenexx-SD program. The Bone Marrow Aspirate Concentrate intervention that follows then intervenes so the acute inflammation doesn’t become chronic by secreting anti-inflammatory factors. Next the healing process begins with immune modulation and cytokines explaining the mechanism of relatively immediate pain relief reported by most patients. Lastly, the follow-up injection of activated Concentrated Platelet Rich Plasma modifies the cellular behavior enhancing the secretory profile of the Mesenchymal Stem Cells. When all is said and done, the vast majority of patients presenting with grades 2 and 3 osteoarthritis are enjoying pain relief and restoration of function more than two years after an intervention. What will follow next is a new approach for those with stage four osteoarthritis who have been told they need a Total Joint Replacement.

Stay Tuned.

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