Dear Doctor: I read that you can use your own stem cells to rejuvenate worn-out knees. Does this really work?
Dear Reader: “Worn out” is a good way to term what happens to the knee joint with prolonged use. Let’s look at how this happens, starting with cartilage.
The lower portion of the knee joint (at the tibia) contains shock absorbers — called menisci — made of cartilage. You have one on the inner portion and another on the outer portion of each knee. The upper portion of the knee joint (at the femur) is lined with cartilage as well. All of this cartilage helps protect the bones at the joint — but it doesn’t heal or regenerate well due to limited blood supply. When severe, worn cartilage leads to arthritis of the knee. In knee X-rays of people over the age of 60, 37 percent have shown evidence of arthritis of the knees.
The intriguing thing about stem cells is that they have the ability to become any type of cell that the body needs. The cells used for stem cell injections in the knees are called mesenchymal stem cells, and they can differentiate into bone, fat or cartilage cells. These stem cells can come from the fat cells of your body, from your bone marrow or from the inner lining of your knee joint; they’re then replicated…