We start with a single patient’s story in order to share the excitement of a potentially groundbreaking treatment for bum knees and hips. No implant. No surgery. No lengthy recovery period. Just a harnessing of the body’s innate power to heal. But the hope for such a treatment needs to be balanced with an equal dose of caution: Testimonials are not proof. Stories about miracle cures can easily distort what’s known about the safety and effectiveness of any given procedure.
But while overhyped ads combined with uncritical media coverage are enough to make skeptics dismiss stem cell therapy, the procedure could live up to its promise — eventually. “It’s not here quite yet,” says Dr. Nathan Wei, a board-certified rheumatologist in Frederick, Maryland, who has performed more than 100 stem cell treatments since 2007. “But in the near future, I hope, stem cells may be a replacement for joint replacement surgery.”
The reason for such hope has everything to do with the almost magical properties of stem cells. None of this involves embryonic stem cells, the pluripotent powerhouses that form in days-old human embryos and have the potential to morph into any of the 200-plus kinds of cells in the human body. Instead, the focus is on mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs).