Stem cells are often mentioned, especially in connection with the possibility of new treatments. However, there is a need for clarity regarding stem cells, because there are different types of stem cells and not all of them can be used in clinical practice.

We talk about this topic with Professor Elizaveta Kon, Head of the Translational Orthopedics Section and specialist at the Centre for Functional and Biological Knee Reconstruction in Humanitas, directed by Professor Maurilio Marcacci.

“Stem cells are non-specialized primitive cells. They are capable of self-regenerating and differentiating into different types of cells with specific functions. The cells present in the blood are called hematopoietic, while those used in orthopedics are misenchymal cells.


The properties of stem cells

“Stem cells were discovered in 1906 by the Russian scholar Alexander Maximov, but to date we do not know them completely: that is why they are still being studied. They are thought to have an immunomodulating power and therefore act at the level of the immune system; it is as if they behaved like natural antibiotics, stimulating the immune response.

The misenchymal cells we use in orthopedics are found almost everywhere in our organism, even if they are in a much smaller number than hematopoietic cells. They are responsible for the regeneration of connective tissues, bones, cartilage and muscles,” explains Professor Kon.


Expanded stem cells and pseudo stem cells

“An important clarification must be made: it is possible to isolate the “real” stem cells in the laboratory, by means of a process of cell expansion, a very complex and sensitive process. These cells, however, cannot be used in Italy for clinical use.

What is allowed is the use of “pseudo” stem cells, i.e. tissue concentrates, rich in stem cells and other components, including growth factors,” says the professor.


The use of fabric concentrates in orthopedics

“Two types of tissue are currently used: bone marrow and adipose tissue. The tissue is collected and concentrated directly in the operating room and then implanted or injected into the joint affected by arthrosis,” Professor Kon concludes.