An active, 71-year old man who declined joint replacement in favor of stem-cell treatment is quoted in a recent New York Times article as saying, “They’re really quick to try to give you fake joints and make a bunch of money off you.” But the NYT article goes on to suggest that making money may be the main objective of some of the many hundreds of clinics that have sprung up around the US to offer cell-based injections to people with aging or damaged joints who want relief without surgery.
The article points out that the FDA has “taken an industry-friendly approach toward companies using unproven cell cocktails” and that the scant scientific evidence about these treatments, which include injections of platelet-rich plasma, is inconclusive.
For OrthoBuzz readers who want to dive more deeply into the scientific underpinnings (or lack thereof) related to cell therapies for joint problems, please peruse the following JBJS and JBJS Reviews articles, which have been made openly available for a limited period of time:
- Intra-articular Cellular Therapy for Osteoarthritis and Focal Cartilage Defects of the Knee
- Nomenclature Inconsistency and Selective Outcome Reporting Hinder Understanding of Stem Cell Therapy for the Knee
- International Expert Consensus on a Cell Therapy Communication Tool: DOSES
- Stem Cell Therapy for Knee Pain–What Exactly Are We Injecting, and Why?
- A Call for Standardization in Cell Therapy Studies
- A Comprehensive Review of Stem-cell Therapy
The main message running through all these articles is this: Effective clinical assessment and safe, optimized use of cell-based therapies demands greater attention to study methods; standards for cell harvesting, processing, and delivery; and standardized reporting of clinical and structural outcomes.