Common Myths about Stem Cell Therapy

Orthopaedic & Spine Center

Mark W. McFarland, DO

As an Orthopaedic Specialist, I utilize many different treatments to help my patients feel better and to restore their physical function.  I use stem cell therapy, when appropriate, to help my patients who suffer from a variety of orthopaedic conditions, including arthritis, spinal disc degeneration, tendinitis and torn ligaments.  Here, I would like to dispel some of the most commonly held misconceptions and myths about stem cell therapy.

Stem cells can heal any condition or disease

While the use of stem cells holds immense promise for all sorts of medical issues, the research into their medical applications is still in its infancy.  I can use them to heal and restore tissues that are partially damaged or torn, but the stem cells we use cannot create totally new tissue in a body part where none exists or existed previously.  We cannot grow a new meniscus in the knee if the patient’s meniscus is totally worn away.

You can catch a disease from Stem Cells

The amniotic stem cells we use are harvested and treated under the same tissue collection protocols governing all tissue donation.  While it may be possible, the risk is incredibly low and there have been no documented cases of infection from stem cells in the United States.  If you donate your own stem cells, there is no chance of being infected by your own tissue.

Your body can reject stem cells

Amniotic stem cells do not have the developed “markers” (chemical signals) which cause your immune system to reject tissue, such as happens during rejection of donated organs.  If you donate your own stem cells, your body will not reject them.

Stem cells for medical use only come from aborted fetuses

We do not use embryonic stem cells harvested from aborted fetuses.  We use two different forms of stem cells:  1) the stem cell material we purchase for use is harvested from the amniotic fluid and umbilical cord blood of mothers who deliver healthy babies.  The mothers are reimbursed or 2) you can donate your own stem cells for use, which we harvest in our office.

The use of stem cells for medical purposes is illegal in the United States

The use of embryonic (fetus) stem cells for research or treatment is illegal.  We do not use embryonic stem cells in our practice.  We use only amniotic/umbilical cord blood stem cells or autologous (self-donated) stem cell therapy. 

Stem cell therapy procedures are painful and result in a long recovery period

Amniotic stem cell therapy is delivered by an injection, which is typically no more uncomfortable than getting a steroid injection.  I may ask you to modify your behavior and rest the injected area for a few weeks.  I will also ask you to not take any anti-inflammatory medication in the weeks after your stem cell therapy.  This can cause increased pain, but it is easily treated with Tylenol and the use of ice or heat.  When compared to a painful surgical procedure with months of recovery, having stem cell therapy is a no-brainer.

For those who donate stem cells, the procedure to harvest the stem cells can be uncomfortable and cause bruising and soreness at the harvesting site, but that can be managed with ice packs and Tylenol.