A Topeka physician began doing adult-derived stem cell injections in his practice this year, bringing an innovative and cutting-edge technique to the capital city.
Doug Frye, of the Center for Manual Medicine, said he has been doing regenerative injections in his practice for more than 10 years, including procedures involving injection of platelet-rich plasma that promote tissue healing.
But he had wanted for several years to expand his practice to include adult-derived stem cells, which are taken from a patient’s own fat tissue, called adipose, and then injected into problem joints. Frye is careful to use the term “adult-derived” to differentiate the stem cell research from the controversial use of embryonic stem cells.
But Frye said he needed to expand his office space to create a procedure room, and it was only this year that space on the lower level of his office at 5000 S.W. 21st became available. After renovations, Frye began doing adult stem cell treatments on Oct. 17.
Although the medical potential of adult stem cells is still being explored, the treatment has gained attention in the United States in the last few decades. Worldwide, however, more research has been done and much of the movement in this segment of medicine is coming from outside the U.S.
While research studies worldwide have indicated numerous potential uses for adult stem cells, including treating everything from paralysis to neurological issues, much of the research has focused on use in repairing or encouraging healing in joints, Frye said.
“Most of the work is joint related — it could be in the joint, it could be in the tendon, it could be in ligaments,” he said. “Really, the most common diagnosis that we would be treating with stem cells would be osteoarthritis.”
Osteoarthritis is estimated to effect 26.9 million people, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the pain and limited movement sometimes associated with it can be significant, particularly as people age.
“I believe that the future is changing,” Frye said.
Stem cells are unspecialized cells that are capable of renewing themselves through cell division, according to the National Institutes of Health. In many tissues, they serve as an internal repair system, dividing to replenish other cells. The stem cell ability to specialize to fulfill certain functions and to regularly divide to repair and replace worn out or damaged tissue opened up the growing focus on adult stem cell therapies.
To do a stem cell treatment, Frye said, he first evaluates where he will remove the fat from the patient to get the stem cells.
“The first thing I’m going to do is evaluate the mid-section for fat because that’s where the best fat is,” he said. “You get farther away from the mid-section and the fat doesn’t have as many stem cells.”
Although most people have some mid-section fat, it isn’t quite that simple. Frye said a heavier person may have fat in their mid-section, but all the fat may be located on the inside. He is seeking subcutaneous fat, or the fat that lies just under the skin. He uses a musculoskeletal ultrasound process, for which he was a pioneering doctor in the U.S. for the popular European practice, to see under the skin and know exactly how many centimeters of fat is available.
He then makes a small incision, possibly two, about 3 to 4 millimeters long, to get a canula attached to a syringe in the incision. The process is typically very comfortable, with little pain. A solution is injected into the incision. Frye waits about 20 minutes, then he takes about 15 to 20 minutes to gently remove the fat.
“Again, there’s very little discomfort,” he said. “Then we have to do the whole processing, and that takes about 45 minutes. First, you’re emulsifying the fat, so you’re breaking it up.”
Eventually, the product is put in a centrifuge to remove the oil, and a stem cell with a fat graft material remains, Frye said. It has been broken up enough that it can be injected through a small needle.
Once injected, the stem cells go to work. Although more research needs to be done on whether stem cells will encourage regeneration of joint tissue, many report that the injections help with pain.
As he continues to use the stem cell treatment with his patients, Frye will track the success of the treatment. Even just weeks into offering it, most of the people who have had the therapy in a joint are reporting they feel better.
He emphasizes that the stem cell treatment, which costs $6,000 for one joint or $8,000 for two joints, isn’t the best treatment for every joint situation. His practice offers plate rich plasma injections, which involves injecting a blood sample that has had platelets separated from other blood cells to produce a much higher concentration. Those treatments are about $750 each.
People with chronic back pain, for instance, will probably find PRP as effective as stem cell treatment for most issues, Frye said.
Seth Harrison, office manager and a certified strength and conditioning specialist, at the center, said the center has received many phone calls about the procedure during the first few weeks.
Although many people need educating about stem cell research, those who call usually have researched it online and know they are interested in the procedure.
“Very few people have called me that did not research it,” Harrison said, adding many have also talked with their physicians, chiropractors and even their vets. In fact, the veterinary world has embraced stem cells to help treat animals.
Education is part of introducing a new therapy, but Frye said he already considers that critical to his business. For instance, using PRP or stem cells to help a joint feel better won’t do any good if the mechanical issues with the body that caused the joint problem in the first place aren’t addressed.
“The whole idea of our whole operation originally is we’re going to help you help yourself,” he said. “We’re not going to cure you. I don’t have holy robes and holy water. I don’t have magic. What we do have is the ability to help you help yourself. And now we have the ability to use your cells to help heal you. You put it all together and it can be a very powerful treatment.”
Source : cjonline