Stem Cells are the progenitor cells of all body cells. These undifferentiated cells, can be converted into all kinds of cells of the tissues and organs of the body such as osteocytes, myocytes, cardiac myocytes, liver, kidney, nerve, skin cells, etc. Stem cells are found in bone marrow, in the blood of umbilical cord and placenta, the tissue of the umbilical cord and placenta, in the peripheral blood of adults, also in the fat and other body tissues.
Stem cells have two main characteristics:
- they are renewed by producing exact copies of themselves and
- if found in appropriate conditions, they can differentiate into cells with specialized functions. This way they can be converted into any other type of cell (e.g. chondrocytes)
To produce this function, they must be “activated” by appropriate signals, which usually happens when there is injury or inflammation. They mature into cells of the tissue or organ which was injured and their main role is to repair them.
Treatment with stem cells aims to collect these cells from tissues that are abundant but lethargic and carry them to the point of injury. They are injected simultaneously with autologous healing factors from activated platelets (PRP). In this way the stem cells under the guidance of platelets and cells from the surrounding tissues start to differentiate into identical cell populations making up for the lost cells, and contributing to the final restoration of the injury.
By using stem cells of the individual himself, restoration of tissues and organs that have been damaged is achieved. The technique is based on the ability of the body to selfheal, to produce by itself the necessary “weapons” to combat the injury.
The parts of the body from which stem cells can be derived so as to have practical therapeutic use, are basically the bone marrow from which the stem cells are obtained by bone puncture and fatty tissue from which stem cells are also collected through a minimally invasive procedure.
Treatment with stem cells is used for the treatment of osteoarthritis mostly but also for injuries of the articular cartilage or other connective tissue structures that do not have satisfactory response to plasma treatment rich in platelets (PRP). Stem cells can stimulate the repair and regrowth of damaged cartilage, which is responsible for the pain and stiffness. Typically, it takes one injection and the effect can last for several months.
For the first 2-3 days there a feeling of heaviness in the injected area which progressively recedes and disappears within a week. The patient can perform daily activities without any problem from the next day of treatment, while sports are to be avoided for the first few days.