While emerging technologies are revolutionizing health care, one of the most promising opportunities still lies within the human body — in our own cells. Stem cell therapy, also called regenerative medicine, is changing how patients experience healing.
Robert Van Demark Jr., M.D., a hand and orthopedic surgeon at Sanford Health, has seen the day-to-day pain, stiffness and other ailments patients with wrist problems experience. Though current treatments can alleviate pain, there is little that can be done to repair the damage causing the underlying issues. However, stem cell therapy may change this for patients with orthopedic injuries.
“When a patient is considered for a cortisone shot or surgery, the joint already has significant damage. We aren’t fixing the issue so much as providing the patient with pain management,” explained Dr. Van Demark. “What stem cell therapy could offer is not just an ability to help with that pain, but possibly a way to regenerate.”
Using stem cells to mend
Typically, as a cell divides, it becomes the same cell type. A skin cell becomes a skin cell. A bone cell becomes a bone cell. A muscle cell becomes a muscle cell.
Stem cells are different. They are unspecialized cells with great adaptability. When a stem cell divides, each new cell can either remain a stem cell or transform into another cell type with a specialized function. This means a stem cell can become any cell type: skin, muscle, bone, etc.
Stem cell therapy uses this extraordinary ability as a therapy. Doctors — like Dr. Van Demark — harness a patient’s stem cells to help repair or restore damaged cells resulting from injury or disease. This may potentially help treat pain and inflammation in patients with wrist osteoarthritis.
The importance of clinical trials
Because stem cell therapy is so new, little research has been completed to understand its true ability. Through FDA-approved clinical trials, Sanford Health is determining the healing potential of adult stem cells as a therapy.
“There is so much out there about stem cells, and no one knows where the truth lies. Clinical trials are how we establish the effectiveness of stem cells as a treatment. Hopefully the results will help health care develop therapeutic approaches to alleviate pain and heal injuries,” said Dr. Van Demark.
A new wrist osteoarthritis study
Sanford Health has three FDA-approved stem cell clinical trials, and the newest is a wrist osteoarthritis study led by Dr. Van Demark. The clinical trial compares using adipose-derived adult stem cells injections with steroid injections for wrist osteoarthritis.
The specific type of stem cells used in all Sanford Health clinical trials are adipose-derived adult stem cells. This means the stem cells are taken from the stomach fat of the adult patient receiving the procedure.
“Adult stem cells can be gathered from the bone marrow or adipose tissue, which is your body fat,” explained Dr. Van Demark. “The stem cells Sanford Health uses are adipose-derived adult stem cells. We liposuction around the abdomen to extract the stem cells.”
With adipose-derived stem cells, a great number of stem cells can be acquired when compared to stem cells acquired from bone marrow. Plus, they can be returned to the body quickly with a low infection rate.
Qualifying for the study
Forty patients are being enrolled into the study. All receive a minor liposuction procedure in the clinic. Half of the participants receive stem cell injections and the other half steroid injections. Participants will not know which treatment they receive. Each will be followed for a year, with complete MRI mapping to track what is occurring and if there are improvements.
To qualify, a patient must be ages 18 to 75, clinically diagnosed with wrist osteoarthritis and able to consent. There are some exclusions limiting participation. Patients cannot be a smoker, pregnant, diabetic or have:
- Active carpal tunnel
- Active chemotherapy
- Active immunosuppressive therapy
- An allergy to local anesthetic
- An autoimmune disease
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Had a cortisone shot in the past six months
- Had cancer in the past five years
To learn more or to see if you qualify, call (877) 878-4825 or visit open clinical trials at Sanford Research.
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