Fat Stem Cells for Shoulder Injuries: Fantasy Island…

By Chris Centeno, MD /

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fat stem cells for shoulder injury

As I’ve often said, where you get stem cells for orthopedic applications matters. However, right now, doctors using fat stem cells in orthopedics are in something similar to a kid’s fantasy stage of play. They’ve ignored the basic science research showing that bone marrow would be a better choice like a kid overlooking a bruise for a lollipop. Now a new research study continues to show the depth of the fantasy.

For example, we have research showing that adipose stem cells don’t repair bone as well as bone marrow stem cells.  In addition, other research comparing bone marrow vs. fat stem cells in cartilage repair has shown the former to be a clear winner. And finally, while we have research in humans showing that bone marrow stem cells help repair torn rotator cuff tendons and muscles, animal research shows that fat stem cells fail to heal shoulder rotator cuffs.

This new study again looked at how fat stem cells might help heal rotator cuff muscle injuries in an animal model. It found that while they were potent anti-inflammatories, this stem cell type did NOT aide in healing the tears. The importance of this and the other studies I’ve linked to above can’t be over emphasized. We have an army of physicians out there using fat stem cells in orthopedic injuries because they took a weekend course and because they heard from some guy who knows a guy that says this works. However, anyone who would spend a few hours researching in depth on the Internet could easily find out that if your field is treating orthopedic injuries, using fat stem cells wouldn’t be your first choice.

The upshot? Given the significant research on the topic, it’s unknown why we continue to see physicians use fat stem cells for orthopedic problems. This is why I call this the “fantasy stage” of playing with stem cells. These physicians simply don’t know what it is they don’t know-which is a dangerous place to be if you’re a patient, let alone a physician.

Chris Centeno, MD

Regenexx Founder

Chris Centeno, MD is a specialist in regenerative medicine and the new field of Interventional Orthopedics. Centeno pioneered orthopedic stem cell procedures in 2005 and is responsible for a large amount of the published research on stem cell use for orthopedic applications.
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Regenerative procedures are commonly used to treat musculoskelatal trauma, overuse injuries, and degenerative issues, including failed surgeries.
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