Why are stem cells so exciting?

Stem cells are the foundation of many regenerative procedures because they contain high levels of natural growth factors that promote healing and decrease inflammation. They are the only cells in the body that have the natural ability to develop into many different types of cells and can replicate without limit.

What are adipose-derived stem cells (ADSCs)?

Stem cells can be acquired primarily through two autologous (self) sources: bone marrow aspirate (fluid from the center of bones) and body fat (adipose). Stem cells acquired from body fat are termed adipose-derived stem cells or ADSCs.

What are the advantages of ADSCs?

ADSCs are ideal for regenerative medicine because they can develop (differentiate) into bone and cartilage cells (even though the stem cells were derived from fat). The concentration of stem cells is greater in fat than in other sources, which is especially useful for individuals who do not have bone marrow cell density. ADSCs can be acquired from any area of the body that has fat.

How are ADSCs acquired?

The process of acquiring ADSCs is relatively straightforward. Typically, fat is extracted from the abdomen, buttocks or even the knee. The fluid taken during aspiration is then digested (broken down to simpler elements) with collagenase to release the stem cells from its matrix. A novel method familiar to orthopaedic surgeons is arthroscopic harvest of the infrapatellar (below the kneecap) fat pad.

Patients may feel discomfort at the aspiration site and should modify activities according to the physician’s recommendation. A short program of Physical Therapy may be advised to accelerate the healing process. Patients tend to feel incremental pain relief a few weeks following the procedure. It may take 6 – 8 weeks to feel the full effects.

Is treatment with ADSCs effective?

ADSCs have only recently been considered for orthopaedic applications and thus the data regarding their efficacy is still limited, though no less promising. Many of the studies have investigated the effects of ADSC treatment for osteoarthritis and found the treatment quite safe. In addition, most patients in these studies reported improvements in symptoms, function and overall condition.

Key Points to Remember

  • Stem cells are the only cells in the body with the natural ability to develop into different types of cells and can replicate without limit.
  • ADSCs are acquired from the patient’s own fat cells.
  • Use of ADSCs is relatively new, but early data, while limited, is promising for use to treat mild to moderate arthritis, tendinitis and ligament injuries.
  • Anti-inflammatory medications such as ibuprofen, naproxen and aspirin should be discontinued, as they may interrupt the healing process.
  • The full benefit of ADSC treatment may not be realized until 6 to 8 weeks after treatment.
  • In general, ADSC procedures are not covered by insurance. Please check with your insurance carrier before you undergo an ADSC treatment. You may speak to an ONS insurance specialist by calling 203-869-1145, ext. 279.