Are You Too Old for Your Stem Cells to Help Cartilage Repair?

by Chris Centeno, MD /

One of the big pushes behind fake stem cell therapies with dead amniotic and cord blood tissue is that they contain millions of young stem cells. While that’s a scam, can you be too old for real bone marrow stem cells to help cartilage repair? Let’s first take a look at the recent research.

What Happens to Cells as We Age?

We all get older. It’s inevitable. The grey hair sets in along with the wrinkles. Maybe we add a few extra pounds and one thing we all know happens is that we don’t recover from injuries like we did when we were young.

Aging is often a direct result of less effective cellular function, but does that mean that there’s nothing we can do as our aging bodies start to break down? Can stem cells bridge this aging cell gap and help repair injuries that normally wouldn’t heal on their own? Let’s take a look at a recent study looking specifically at the cartilage repair capabilities of older rats with and without stem cells and/or PRP.

Cartilage Repair Potential Using Stem Cells in Older Rats

The new study investigated cartilage repair in rats with partial-thickness cartilage damage. Rats were grouped in age ranges from 3 to 14 weeks and allowed to either self-heal or were treated with mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) and/or platelet-rich plasma (PRP). Understandably, rats in the younger groups (3 weeks and 6 weeks) experienced better self-healing (nearly full restoration by 12 weeks post damage) than the older rats (with 14-week-old rats experiencing further cartilage degeneration during the same time period). However, in rats treated with stem cells with or without PRP, cartilage repair in the 14-week old rats was nearly equivalent to that in the 6-week old rats. With PRP alone, the older rats experienced nearly the same amount of cartilage repairs as the 10-week old rats.

What does this mean? Stem cells are better at repairing small potholes in the cartilage than PRP. However, PRP alone can help. All of this becomes more important as we age. Meaning that the average 20 something is likely to heal small divots in the cartilage through natural means. However, the average 30, 40, or 50-year-old needs help.

More on Stem Cells and Aging

Cartilage isn’t the only structure benefited by stem cells. A study last year found that stem cells could replenish damaged neural (nerve) cells in the hypothalamus of mice, both slowing aging and increasing lifespan. Again, similar results need to be confirmed in humans.

The mitochondria in our cells also play a key role in aging. Our stem cells naturally recharge the “batteries” of damaged or dying cells by giving them their good mitochondria. Our stem cells also accomplish this using a battery-sorting process, sorting good batteries to one cell and bad batteries to another, thereby creating one strong cell and one week instead of two mediocre cells. Why our stem cells do this is a topic for further study, but it could hold a key to using stem cells to address aging in the future.

Further, there are things you can intentionally do to naturally keep your cells healthy and slow the aging process:

Speaking of being proactive, if you get a chance, read my book on how I personally try to avoid the pitfalls of aging and staying active (click on the cover to read):

The upshot? I’m now 55. While I exercise hard and try to stay fit, I know my body needs help to be able to do these things and I partake of as many orthobiologics as I can. Meaning, I get my knees injected once or twice a year with PRP. My back needs help as well as my neck and I find new things breaking down (like my shoulder) all the time. However,  I won’t hesitate to get a PRP or stem cell procedure early, before things get bad and I have a complete rotator cuff tear. Am I depressed about all of this? Nope. In fact, I’m grateful that I’m aging in a time when all of this is just becoming available!

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19 thoughts on “Are You Too Old for Your Stem Cells to Help Cartilage Repair?

  1. Judi

    Agree, completely.
    I too am grateful that I am aging in time when this advanced regenerative therapy is available. Thanks so much Regenexx. I can play longer and harder as I get older and cope with the aging process more gracefully. An ankle injury, which made it very difficult to walk more than 10 minutes a day, which turned out to be avascular necrosis, has been resolving and getting better and better ever since I did a treatment more than 1 year ago.
    Thanks for all your hard work, research and dedication in this field. If you ever decide to do cameo appearances at a clinic or hospital in Mexico I will be the first patient !

  2. Shelley Resnick

    I have degenerating knee caps on both knees. I’ve been told there are no effective Orthopedic procedures for them; but the cartilage is gone beneath them. Can Stem Cell or PRP Injections help? I’m a very active 79 year old women.

    1. Regenexx Team

      Shelly,
      All patients go through a Candidacy evaluation to see if their particular issue would be a Candidate. Being active is great! Our research has shown, that the degree of arthritis, nor age, negatively affect the results of Regenexx SD knee procedures, so we could likely help. To proceed with that process, please call 855 622 7838.

  3. stef

    Time limit 19 october if you want to come to Mcgill stem cell summit. You could do a Ted Talk. Merci.

  4. Max

    Thanks for the post! Perhaps a more open-ended question, why do you think the human body can not figure out on its own to channel stem cells to heal an injury? I.e. what structurally motivates collecting stem cells manually and reinjecting them?

    1. Regenexx Team

      Max,
      The process of aging… Luckily, we can get them to precisely where they need to go with precise image guided injections.

  5. Michelle Hill

    I just had part 1 of 3 stem and prep for my knee with Dr. Attaman D.O ,Bellevue, WA. I took appt with surgeon for their opinion and it was replacement. I had torn mcl, meniscus and patellar tendon and misc. I appreciate your weekly blogs and am now sharing with others. I have 4 friends awaiting my 6 month outcome as they will then too come to Regenexx if all is a success. I do tell all that diet, supplements and exercise play a key part. Thank you for your research. Michelle L Hill

  6. kathryn P

    I had the regenexx procedure done in 2017 at the age of 62 and still going strong–both knees–ha to aging ;0)

    1. Regenexx Team

      Ha! Great to hear, Kathryn!

  7. Patti

    Dr. Centeno ~~ How do you deal with the complete tear of your rotator cuff? It is so painful. You probably do stem cells and PRP, but do you do anything else? I’ve had one session of PRP which helped a little but am still in pain. Have not done the prescribed exercises because of fear of more pain. How important do you think the exercises are? ~~Patti

    1. Regenexx Team

      Patti,
      A complete tear likely needs stem cells. Prescribed physical therapy is important, but if you are in that much pain, please contact your treating Doctor, so they can advise. Please see: https://regenexx.com/blog/patient-rotator-cuff-stem-cell-injection-rct/

  8. Patty Nestle

    I would really like more information about this as I am 60 years old and would like to do something with stem cells.

    I have issues with my left elbow, left knee , left foot and my entire spine.

    How I can I find a doctor in LITH IL 60156 ?

  9. Steve Zeidan

    Thanks for the great articles. I look forward to them. PRP has helped me tremendously I get them with Dr. Shounuck Patel.

    1. Regenexx Team

      Steve,
      Glad you enjoy them and that Dr. Patel has been such a help!

  10. Patti

    Correction to previous email … I had one session of Prolozone (Prolotherapy with ozone) … not PRP. …Patti
    PS … I do not live near one of your clinics.

    1. Regenexx Team

      Patti,
      Prolozone would not have the potential to repair a complete rotator cuff tear. We would still suggest contacting the person who did the treatment, as hopefully, they would have examined your shoulder. The concern is that they may be something else going on in there. Please see: https://regenexx.com/blog/rotator-cuff-tear-causing-shoulder-pain/ If you’d like us to weigh in, please submit the candidate form, or call 855 622 7838.

  11. Sophia Mazurek

    want to do the knee treatment for my husband who has a torn meniscus as well as arthritis, of course. But, I have heard that stem cell could actually duplicate cancer cells causing them to grow and giving patient cancer. How high are these scenarios?

    I would also like treatment for arthritis in my crunchy swollen knee.

    1. Regenexx Team

      Hi Sophia,
      That could be a concern with certain types of stem cells, but is not a concern with Regenexx treatment. We have published the world’s largest (to date) safety and complications tracking study of adult stem cell use in patients. This study did not show any serious stem cell related complications and it did not show that any patient developed a stem cell-related cancer. Finally, we maintain an extensive complications tracking database with patient contacts at specified times. Please see: https://regenexx.com/conditions-treated/knee/ To see if you and your husband would be Candidates, please submit the Candidate form here: http://www.regenexx.com or give us a call at 855 622 7838.

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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