More Research that Bone Marrow Beats Fat for Orthopedic Applications

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bone marrow beats fat for orthopedic applications

Despite all the hype, Fat stem cells are great for some things, and not for others. The same is true for Bone Marrow stem cells. The trick is using the right type of stem cells, for the right thing. In a new study out of China, there is yet more data showing that bone marrow stem cells outperform adipose stem cells for bone and cartilage repair. Why?

The general Bone Marrow vs Fat Stem Cell debate makes sense in that Mesenchymal (MSC’s) are plentiful in both tissue sources. It’s when that debate narrows to specific applications that it loses steam. Specific types of stem cells simply do different things, and while there are actually more MSC’s in fat than bone marrow as a percentage of nucleated cells, there are many fewer nucleated cells in fat — meaning that both have similar stem cell content.

The new study set up a direct head to head comparison of the biological characteristics of adipose and bone marrow MSC’s to evaluate their potential for regenerative medicine applications. After evaluating many different characteristics for use in cell therapy, their findings demonstrated that the two different types of stem cells had very different differentiation potential. Adipose MSC’s cells grew more easily, and had better immune system potential. Each source contained different but equal growth factors. Bone Marrow MSC’s had a much greater biological advantage in osteogenic (bone making), and chondrogenic (cartilage making) differentiation characteristics.  They concluded that the different characteristics should be considered when selecting the tissue source of MSC’s for different regenerative medical applications.

The upshot?  This was an important study that mirrors the finding of many other studies. We now have 10 studies showing that bone marrow stem cells are better for orthopedic purposes than fat stem cells. We’ve tested both adipose and bone marrow stem cells extensively for orthopedic applications in the lab and have used both in treatment. We found the use of, or addition of, adipose stem cells provided no benefit over bone marrow stem cells. So if you are looking for a face lift, a little filler in your frown lines, or even a stem cell heart procedure, we can’t help you, but regrettably, neither can the docs using fat do much for your knees.

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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. View Profile

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