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Stem Cell Therapy May Improve Outcomes in Knee Surgery and Osteoarthritis: Optimum Performance

Atlanta Falcons defensive end John Abraham, left, zeros in on New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees during a fourth-quarter pass play in which Brees’ right knee was injured. (Eliot Kamenitz/The Times-Picayune)

According to research noted in the Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery (, “More than one million knee arthroscopy procedures are performed annually in the U.S., of which, the majority are for the surgical repair or partial excision of meniscal tears.” This same journal noted that, “Unfortunately, the failure rate of approximately 20 to 24 % has not substantially changed even with the advent of all-inside surgical techniques.” says, “The meniscus is a half moon shaped piece of cartilage that lies between the weight bearing joint surfaces of the femur and the tibia. It is triangular in cross section and is attached to the lining of the knee joint along its periphery. There are two menisci in a normal knee; the outside one is called the lateral meniscus, the inner one the medial meniscus.”

Story by

Mackie Shilstone,

Contributing writer

A research paper on – Adult Human Mesenchymal Stem Cells Delivered Via Intra-Articular Injection to the Knee Following Partial Medial Meniscectomy (removal of meniscus) – concluded that, “The results of this study suggest that mesenchymal stem cells have the potential to improve the overall condition of the knee joint.”

The research, a phase I/II randomized, double blind, controlled study of mesenchymal stem cells delivered by a single intra-articular injection after partial meniscectomy, involved sixty patients between the ages of sixteen and sixty who were randomly assigned to one of three treatment groups – one group receiving 50 million human mesenchymal stem cells, another receiving 150 million stem cells, and a control group.

According to Kevin Darr, a board certified orthopedic surgeon, who practices at the Covington Orthopedic and Sports Medicine Institute and a pioneer in orthopedic stem cell therapies, “Mesenchymal stem cells are multi-potent stromal (connective tissue) cells of mesodermal origin that can differentiate into a variety of cell types, including articular cartilage and meniscal tissue. These cells have demonstrated significant anti-inflammatory effects and do not have adverse immune effects.”

Darr, who is currently involved in 5 IRB (independent review board) approved studies utilizing mesenchymal stem cells to treat various musculoskeletal disorders, says, “Mesenchymal stem cells can not only improve the outcome of patients who have had a meniscectomy, but also who have a meniscetomy in the presence of osteoarthritis (OA).”

The Centers For Disease Control and Prevention says that, “Overall, in the United States, OA affects 13.9% of adults aged 25 years and older and 33.6% (12.4 million) of those 65+ in 2005; an estimated 26.9 million US adults in 2005 up from 21 million in 1990.

Darr’s research to date, “Is showing that patients can potentially avoid a surgical procedure with injections of mesenchymal stem cells. Research on patients with osteoarthritis show 93% of patients report some improvement with pain and function and at 1 year follow-up, patients average 72% improvement in pain and 50% improvement in function.”

The stem cell protocol has the, “Patients receive 3 injections on the day of the procedure, which include platelet-rich plasma (PRP), adipose derived stem cells, and bone marrow stem cells. The patients follow-up at 6 weeks, 18 weeks, and 1 year. The bone marrow and adipose stem cells are not repeated, however the patient may receive a PRP injection at the 6 week and 18 week follow-up, depending on level of improvement.”

And why are patients with osteoarthritis improving? Darr says, “The reason patients are improving is due to the fact that stem cells decrease the inflammation associated with osteoarthritis and are nourishing existing cartilage cells, allowing the cells the potential to repair. The stem cells can also differentiate into new cartilage cells.”

Time and solid, proven research will continue to demonstrate ways that humans can push away father time. Think what that will mean to all those retired pro athletes who are looking for a new lease on life to stay active and pain free. And, how about you and me, too.

Mackie Shilstone, a regular contributor to | The Times-Picayune, has been involved in the wellness sports performance industry for nearly 40 years. He is currently a fitness consultant to Serena Williams and has trained numerous other professional athletes and consulted a litany of professional sports franchises. He is St. Charles Parish Hospital’s fitness and wellness expert. Contact him at