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Recent advances in Orthopedics has given hope to unleash body’s own healing power in the form of stem cells. These cells are our body’s ‘smart cells’ which has the ability to combat disease and injury and are responsible for maintaining the integrity of the tissue they reside in. Infact, the future of many medical specialties like orthopedics would change from ‘remove’ and ‘replace’ to ‘repair’ and ‘regenerate’.

Stem cells are actually unspecialized cells, which have the ability to change into any type of cell based on body’s requirement. Their function in our body is to maintain the integrity of the tissues they reside in. That is, most body tissues can heal themselves with the help of stem cells, provided, there is a favorable environment for repair. This natural healing process can be, theoretically mimicked and enhanced by artificially implanting stem cells at the site of an injury.

In orthopedics, stem cells are obtained from four sources: bone marrow, blood, fat and synovium. These cells especially cells from bone marrow are used to regenerate injured cartilage, muscles and ligaments. Tissues sometimes do not heal, either due to poor blood supply or due to presence of inhibiting factors like synovial fluid, and cause financial burden and sufferings to patients. In these cases and in patients wanting to avoid a surgery or who are unfit for surgery, stem cells can become a feasible alternative. Athletes and sportsperson who prefer to return to sports early and want less invasive procedures, prefer to use stem cells for repair and healing of ligament and muscle injuries rather than replace them.

PRP (platelet rich plasma)

Platelet rich plasma is used in the form of an injection. It is separated from blood and is then injected at the site of injury or joint. It contains many growth factors and stem cells that help in repair.

BMAC (bone marrow aspirate concentrate)

Bone marrow is aspirated from bone and subjected to cell concentration procedure. It is then injected at the site of injury or avascularity for healing.

Despite the promise of these regenerative techniques on the horizon, expectations from stem cells should be kept realistic and although anecdotal evidence exists on benefit of stem cells in tissue injury, there are very few controlled studies to confirm it.