How Do Stem Cells Heal?

by Chris Centeno, MD /

how do stem cells heal

How do stem cells heal? A picture is worth a thousand words, so take a look above. This is an experiment using the facilities of our advanced Regenexx research lab in Colorado. What’s fascinating is it gives an immediate sense of how stem cells do their job.

The experiment is known as a “scratch test”. In this case, the researcher took a plate where mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) had attached and made a small micro scratch through the cells. You see those in the left column. Then the cells grown in different media (one for each row) were allowed to keep doing what they naturally do for two days. You see them closing the gap, even the massive one on the bottom left.

How does this work? MSCs love spreading out a bit and trying to completely cover a surface. When they do that, the cells look to see if they are touching other MSCs. If not, then they crank up proliferation and begin to divide and look for new territory. What’s great about MSCs is that once they’re done covering a surface and begin to touch each other, they display a property called “contact inhibition”. This means that they automatically stop growing and switch from a proliferation mode into wanting to differentiate into some other tissue. In fact, it’s exploiting this phenomenon which allows them to be grown in culture. In that situation, they’re seeded at low density in a specialized flask and they naturally begin trying to cover the surface by growing more of themselves. Just before they cover 80% of the flask, the lab technician uses an enzyme (trypsin) to get them off the plastic surface and reseeds them in more flasks at a lower density again, causing the cells to stay in that proliferation phase. This is repeated until you either have the desired cell number or the cells naturally begin to slow down their growth.

The upshot? Watching MSCs close a gap tells you a lot about how they work to heal injuries. They act like little workmen who naturally know when to spread out and divide to create more workers or when the job is done and it’s time to “punch out”!

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17 thoughts on “How Do Stem Cells Heal?

  1. fred

    in your advanced stem cell formula how much chondroition is in it you did not say also i have appointment on the 8 of December can i still get the black Friday discount

    1. Regenexx Team

      Fred,
      I just went to the Regenexx Advanced Stem Cell Support Formula page on the Regenexx website to check for you and the discount still appears to work: http://www.regenexx.com/regenexx-advanced-stem-cell-support-formula/. It’s for the 3 products, The Stem Cell Support Formula, the Tumeric Curcumin Supplement, and the Fish Oil. The specific amounts of ingredients not required to be stated are not stated because the formula is a result of a year’s worth lab research and patented. Great news on your Dec.8th Appointment!

  2. Patti

    When injury caused complete removed of a meniscus on one side of the knee, can you tell me if there is a process to place some sort of platform (like mesh for the stem cells to grow) for the stem to attach in that void? And, how do the stem cells know where to start in the knee once injected into an area with missing meniscus

    1. Regenexx Team

      Patti,
      There is collagen based meniscal scaffold used in the UK called Menaflex, which had been FDA approved here and the FDA subsequently reversed the approval. However, one of the most important things to avoid is additional surgery. A good percentage of our knee patients have had meniscus surgery and are therefore missing varying amounts of meniscus, and a good percentage of our knee patients are bone on bone knee replacement candidates. All of our injections are done under either dynamic ultrasound guidance, or fluoroscopy guidance, allowing the stem cells to be placed exactly where they need to be. But before that, a very extensive exam determines whether other structures like tendons or ligaments ( or sometimes even your back) have been affected by the instability that results from missing half of a meniscus, and an individual treatment plan is created. This will give you an idea of how Regenexx knee treatments work: http://www.regenexx.com/the-regenexx-procedures/knee-surgery-alternative/ . If we can be of further assistance please let us know.

  3. Ernestine Mullin

    This message is for Che.

    I want to let her know that I will be using Purolator tomorrow, Wednesday, December 3, 2015 to forward my X-Rays and MRI (left knee) together with an American money order so that I might have the individual involved to preview the slides and report back to me with the pertinent results in your timely manner..

    My Cell number is 416-727-5254.

    Thank you so much and I will look forward to your phone call.

    Ernestine (Buffy) Mullin
    64 John Street
    Port Perry, Ontario Canada
    L9L 1J4

    P.S. I believe, Che, that you have my medical form in your file.

    Please do not hesitate to call or e-mail, if necessary.

    1. Regenexx Team

      Ernestine,
      Thank you. I have forwarded your message to Che.

  4. Patti

    Are the results without a scaffold less successful than with one? I’m trying to get an idea of what the stem cells will attach to in bone on bone conditions. Sort of seems like the stem cells would move around with nothing to ground them into forming a new meniscus structure. Thanks.

    1. Regenexx Team

      Patti,
      We really appreciate the amount of research and thought you’ve put into making treatment decisions for your knee. In today’s medical system, it is very necessary. Since you have an interest in the concept of meniscal scaffolds, here is a link to research about that technology: http://scholar.google.co.uk/scholar?q=rcts+on+meniscus+scaffold&hl=en&as_sdt=0&as_vis=1&oi=scholart&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjZwvDCg8HJAhXIxxQKHc6MDuAQgQMIIDAA
      Regenexx works VERY differently and approaches joint repair with a paradigm disruptive to the current “cut things out and replace them with spare parts” paradigm which is Orthopedics today. Rather than cutting things out with no regard to the long term affects to the joint, a patient’s biomechanics or health in general, and inserting foreign bodies into them with the same disregard, our goal is to harness your own body’s inherent ability to heal, and bring it to the joint so that repair and healing can happen in a way that corrects rather than negatively impacts the joint, your biomechanics, and health. 3 different procedures make up the Regenexx SD protocol, which work together to restore function and eliminate pain. If you would like to speak to one of our doctors by phone and have them read your MRI, answer your questions and give you their medical opinion about whether or not they feel we can help you, please fill out the Regenexx candidate form: http://www.regenexx.com/ You can also call 888 525 3005 and speak to one of our staff. Please let us know if we can be of further assistance.

  5. David Davenport

    Regarding the “How Do Stem Cells Heal?” images, what do “Equal Fetal” and “Fetal Select” mean?

    What sort of fetal tissue is involved there?

    1. Regenexx Team

      David,
      No fetal tissue. They are 2 similar culture mediums used to grow stem cells. But a very good question!

  6. David Davenport

    Regenexx, thanks for your reply.

    Are “Equal Fetal” or “Fetal Select” similar to the freeze dried human amniotic membrane products currently available?

    1. Regenexx Team

      David,
      No, not at all. They are 2 slightly different standard culture mediums for “culturing” stem cells in-vitro. The freeze dried amniotic membrane products you mentioned are sold as a stem cell treatment product, but we have tested them extensively in the lab and not only found no live stem cells…we found no live anything.

  7. David Davenport

    Regenexx:

    I had in mind the Amniofix product.

    Does EqualFetal or Fetal Select have any similarity to Amniofix?

    1. Regenexx Team

      David,
      No. EquaFetal and Fetal Select are standard culture mediums to grow stem cells in the lab. Amniofix is a stem cell treatment product. We have not found any live stem cells or any live anything for that matter in any amniotic “stem cell” products we have tested in the lab. They can have a mild anti-inflammatory effect, but no potential to bring stem cells to repair the targeted area, as there are none. http://www.regenexx.com/blog/fetal-stem-cell-treatment/

  8. David Davenport

    OK, thanks for answering my questions.

  9. Annie Ming

    Any research/work in process toward treatment for optic nerve loss in glaucoma patients?

    1. Regenexx Team

      Annie,
      We do a great amount of research, but it’s all regarding the use of stem cells in orthopedic conditions, which is also what we treat. http://www.regenexx.com/stem-cell-research/ PubMed is a good resurce for research in General.

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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