Stem cells are the new frontier in the research for new treatments. It is important to know that there is not a single type of stem cells. However, not all of them can be used in clinical practice.
We asked Professor Elizaveta Kon, supervisor of the Translational Orthopedy Section and a specialist in the Center for the Functional and Biological Reconstruction of Knees at Humanitas, directed by Professor Maurilio Marcacci.
Stem cells are primitive, unspecialized cells. They are able to auto-regenerate and differentiate into different types of cells with specific functions. Those found in the blood are hemopoietic cells, while those used in orthopedy are mesenchymal cells.
The Properties of Stem Cells
“Stem cells have been discovered back in 1906 by the Russian scientist Alexander Maximov. However, we still do not understand them fully. They reportedly have an immunomodulating power and thus are able to affect the immune system, working as natural antibiotics in stimulating the immune response.
Mesenchymal cells used in orthopedy are almost anywhere in our body, even though they are way less than hemopoietic cells. They are responsible for the regeneration of connective tissues, bones, cartilage and muscles”, Professor Kon explains.
Expanded Stem Cells and “Pseudo” Stem Cells
“It is important to say that researchers are able to isolate “original” stem cells in their laboratory with a very complex, sensible cellular expansion process. However, these cells cannot be used clinically in Italy. The law only allows for the use of “pseudo” stem cells, that are tissue concentrates, rich in stem cells and other components, such as growth factors”, the professor points out.
The use of Tissue Concentrates in Orthopedy
“Right now, we use two kinds of tissue. Bone marrow and adipose tissue. We withdraw the tissue and concentrate it directly in the operating room, where we implant or inject it in the articulation with arthrosis”, Professor Kon concludes.