Research across the world has demonstrated the significant promise and benefit of the use of stem cells in several human and animal conditions and diseases. Stem cells are the undifferentiated cells found in a few repositories in the body that have the potential to develop into different cell types based on stimuli received from the environment around the cell.
If stem cells are properly harvested and preserved then implanted into different locations, they can develop to replace or repair damaged tissue. Therefore they have been used to treat damage to ligaments in the knee, shoulder, skin, and also the spine.
Stem cells are commercially available from companies who pool donated cells from donors. These usually come from amniotic tissue obtained and purified. Stem cells, as well as the platelet rich plasma (PRP) that contains the stem cells, can also be harvested from an individual from a few sites then prepared for (re)implantation. These techniques are called allograft donation and autologous donation respectively.
At the Academy of Neurosurgical Physicians we use the autologous method almost exclusively. This method reduces the risks of infection transmission and transplant rejection compared to the allograft method. The stem cells are harvested typically from the ilium bone at the iliac crest then prepared in sterile centrifuges to concentrate the bone marrow aspirate. With proper concentration, volume is selected for implantation into spinal disks that are candidates. Some disks require decompression prior to placement of the stem cells and PRP.
Patients who are candidates for stem cell therapy are assessed in the clinic with examination and imaging. The patient who may desire an augmentative treatment rather than a destructive treatment may discuss the potential for stem cell therapy with the neurosurgeon