This article has been revised to provide the most accurate and up-to-date information.
*original publication date: December 1, 2019. Revised August 1, 2023
How Mesenchymal Regenerative Cells are Used in Regenerative Medicine
Mesenchymal Regenerative Cells (or MSCs) extracted from one’s body are multipotent cells, meaning that they are able to change into other types of cells such as osteoblasts (bone cells), chondrocytes (cartilage), myocytes (muscle), adipocytes (fat), and many other cell types. These cells work to create new bone and new cartilage, respectively. MSCs are useful in regenerative medicine treatments as they:
- display plasticity and multipotency
- induce immunomodulatory and anti-inflammatory effects
- express essential cytokines, or proteins, that are important for cellular communication
Regenerative therapy is established in the area of blood transfusion, bone marrow, tissue transplantation, and reproductive in-vitro fertilization. As such, the processes for determining and extracting MSCs has evolved greatly in the past 40 years.
How Bone Marrow Regenerative Cells are Extracted
At the Regenerative Spine & Joint Center, we use Mesenchymal Regenerative Cells from your bone marrow. We target an easily accessible bone in the back of the pelvis called the ileum. Bone marrow extraction for Mesenchymal Regenerative Cells is a simple process. The procedure of extracting the bone marrow is known as a bone marrow aspiration. The technique involves using medications to keep you comfortable, followed by numbing the skin and the surface of the ileum. Only after everything is numb is an aspiration needle inserted into the bone using x-ray guidance. Bone marrow is safely and quickly removed with very minimal discomfort.
The Mesenchymal Regenerative cells are reintroduced into your body at an injury site to rebuild tissues, most commonly in the knee joints, hips, and shoulders. Unlike other cells that are collected from donor cells, the MSCs come from your own body. Compared to purchasing “frozen regenerative cells in a vial”, using your own bone marrow regenerative cells ensures that no one else’s genetic material is injected into you; avoids the possibility of germ or other contamination introduced during processing; and guarantees that the cells have never been exposed to preservatives or subjected to a freeze/thaw cycle which potentially impacts their viability.
Injuries and Diseases that can be Treated with MSCs
MSCs can be used to repair a number of different injuries in joints, ligaments, tendons and cartilage locations in your body.
Osteoarthritis (QA) is a common degenerative disorder that causes the cartilage on the ends of bones to wear down over time. OA affects nearly 80 percent of adults over the age of 65. This causes joint pain, stiffness, tenderness and a loss of flexibility. It can also result in the formation of bone spurs, which are protruding bone growths that often affect joint mobility. Osteoarthritis is a leading cause of pain and disability around the world.
Knee Ligament Injuries and Shoulder Ligament Injuries
Knee ligament injuries and shoulder ligament injuries are both fairly common, especially for individuals who live physically active lifestyles. Ligaments are both difficult and slow to heal due to their repetitive and continued use. The healing process produces a lot of swelling and during the process, ligament tissue is often weaker than it was originally.
However, using MSCs has been shown to significantly improve the healing process. Studies have shown that injecting MSCs into the affected site can significantly decrease inflammation levels, help to increase production of new blood vessels, reduce scar tissue formation, control immune system response, and support other regenerative cell behaviors. This helps to improve the healing process while creating a stronger, more functional ligament tissue.
Knee and Hip Cartilage Injuries
The cartilage in the hip and knee joints has to contend with a lot of daily wear and tear. These joints must absorb your body’s full weight every time you walk or stand. Forces become even greater during physical activity such as running, weight lifting, or playing sports.
In the hip, cartilage is found on the top end of the femur (articular cartilage) and around the edge of the joint to hold your femur in place (known as the labrum). In the knee, cartilage is found on the bottom end of the femur (articular cartilage) and on top of the tibia (the meniscus). The breakdown of these tissues can lead to knee and hip cartilage injuries and cause joint pain and osteoarthritis.
Since MSCs can convert into chondrocytes, or cartilage building cells, they can assist in healing cartilage wear and tear. When cartilage is damaged, the severity varies from a soft spot in the cartilage to a full tear down to the bone. When articular cartilage is damaged and heals, it often is less slippery and thinner which can limit joint movement. Injecting MSCs directly into the damaged cartilage can create hyaline-like cartilage, restoring much of the previous function. With regard to meniscus injuries, using MSCs along with arthroscopic surgery showed increased cartilage regrowth and thickness.
There are many potential applications of Mesenchymal Regenerative Cells. Though only discovered 40 years ago, MSCs have been reviewed by the FDA for many regenerative therapies, all of which show great promise. MSCs can be obtained easily and differentiate into whatever the body needs.