How Much Human Stem Cell Research is There?
Every year or so I summarize all of the human bone marrow mesenchymal stem cell research in orthopedics. At first this exercise began to answer the simple question of how much research do we have using real patients? Is it a lot or a little? After all, many in the scientific community would continuously complain that we just didn’t know enough about stem cells and that we needed more research.
Trying to draw some conclusion about research on patients can sometimes be challenging. I first tried to make that a bit easier by limiting myself to studies that were published in the US National Library of Medicine. Second, I asked if there was a number that would give us a sense of how big an impact this research had made. I settled on adding up all of the patients that had had their results published after being treated with stem cells for orthopedic conditions. However, there were a few that repeated patients (i.e. the authors had published on say 100 patients in 2005 and then published an update on 200 patients in 2007 that included the original 100 patients). Despite that, the “total n” seemed helpful in gauging research activity.
The next challenge was how to organize all of this info so that a patient or a physician could easily get to each study, see how many studies existed for each body area (i.e. knee), and find basic info about study size and how the cells were delivered to the area treated. I decided to represent each individual study by a circle icon with a link to the study abstract, a body area description, the patient “n” (number of patients treated), and either a syringe or scalpel icon to represent if the cells has been delivered via injection, surgery, or by both means.
The results? Click on the image above to see the more detailed PDF with active links. In the first 8 months of 2015, more than an additional 500 patients had been added to the previous total of more than five thousand. In addition, the total number of research papers in the first 8 months of 2015 exceeded all papers published in 2014! I’m also proud to say that our research group is still holding it’s own having published on 28% of all patients represented in the infographic.
The upshot? While you can certainly argue that we don’t have enough research yet on fat stem cell use in orthopedics or on embryonic use in any number of diseases, the argument that we know little about how real patients react to bone marrow stem cells in orthopedics is not really credible. We as a society have 18 years of experience published with these cells on more than 5,000 patients!
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