Osteoporosis Stem Cell Treatment: Scam Alert

by Chris Centeno, MD /

osteoporosis stem cell treatment

I was just pinged this week by a woman who asked me how long it would take for an IV stem cell treatment to reverse osteoporosis. I was a bit puzzled, as the fat stem cell treatment she was asking about doesn’t even have an animal model showing that it may work. How did we get to this sorry state of affairs where a woman e-mails me out of the blue about an osteoporosis stem cell treatment which is obviously a scam?

Most patients don’t realize that stem cells from different tissues have different properties and that different injection routes will do very different things. For example, for bone rebuilding, stem cells isolated from fat are at a distinct disadvantage than those from bone marrow. In fact, to get them to form bone, a huge chemical stimulus needs to be applied in culture at a very specific time and at a hyper-specific dose. In addition, many also don’t realize that how stem cells are injected is also very critical to how they perform. For example, if we were trying to build bone, they would need to be injected into the bone marrow. Injecting stem cells IV just ensures that almost all of the cells will get trapped in the lungs and very few will ever make it out of the lungs and into the bone.

So do we have any research data that shows that the type of stem cell treatment that this woman had will make her weak bones stronger? First, a patient with osteoporosis has bones that have been weakened by years of hormonal imbalance, age, and inactivity. The idea behind this kind of treatment is that since mesenchymal stem cells can become bone and since there is need for new and stronger bone, that adding stem cells will strengthen her weakened bone. However, when one examines the IV fat stem cell treatment she wants to try, the possibility of this treatment helping her is highly unlikely. First, fat stem cells just don’t naturally create new bone. Second, the cells were injected IV, where they will get trapped in the lungs and very few would ever reach the bones. Finally, if we search for even an animal experiment that shows that this type of stem cell will help build new bone in osteoporosis, none exists.

So how did this poor woman get scammed into thinking that this stem cell treatment would help build new bone? Regrettably, we’re in the stem cell wild west right now where most of the doctors who are performing these treatments have just taken a weekend course. Many of them don’t know even the simple facts I’ve outlined above. In addition, there seems to be no shortage of doctors who are willing to feed the hype to patients who have come to believe that stem cells are magic and can do anything.

The upshot? Don’t get scammed into thinking that an IV stem cell treatment will build new bone in a patient with osteoporosis. Do some homework and maybe do what this woman did – reach out to an expert to make sure that what is being proposed sounds credible!

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6 thoughts on “Osteoporosis Stem Cell Treatment: Scam Alert

  1. Pam

    What about connective tissues ?

    1. Regenexx Team

      Pam,
      Most of what we treat, ligaments, tendons, cartilage, muscle, etc. are types of connective tissue. Did you have a particular type in mind?

  2. Rich

    What has been done in the medical field to replace or repair the meniscus? I believe mine is either completely or partially absent. Are there materials that are used in the place of the meniscus?

    1. Regenexx Team

      Rich,
      The best option available today is to use your own platelets and stem cells in a targeted injection to repair damage and halt the degenerative process. This eliminates downtime which is damaging to the function of the joint, and keeps the integrity of the joint. Different Regenexx procedures are used depending on the particular situation.

      In the world of surgery based traditional orthopedics there are meniscal cadaver transplants which very few people qualify for as the requirements are the knee has to be free of arthritis, patient younger than 55 and physically active, proper alignment of the knee with stabile knee ligaments(almost impossible with large sections of meniscus missing), and within normal weight range. While they do their best at screening donors, there is still risk involved, but more importantly, cadaver and manmade equipment never functions like the original and tends to create bigger problems than it solves. http://www.regenexx.com/ http://www.regenexx.com/the-regenexx-procedures/knee-surgery-alternative/ http://www.regenexx.com/meniscus-tears/ Please let us know if we can be of any further assistance, Rich.

  3. Robert Pemberton

    My family has cartilage defiency which has resulted in two knees in a deceased brother, two ankle and two knee in another. I have two ankles, right shoulder and right knee replaced and am looking at a left shoulder and left knee for stem cell treatment. All replacements are working well. I am eight-one but in good health and condition, working out 3 days a week. What are my chances for successful stem cell treatment.

    1. Regenexx Team

      Robert,
      81, 4 joint replacements and working out 3 days a week…this world needs more people like you!

      May I ask if the cartilage deficiency was a congenital thing in which you were all born with very little cartilage, or is a degenerative thing like severe Osteoarthritis where the cartilage started out as normal but wore down over time? The answer to that question will help us figure out how we can best help. http://www.regenexx.com/

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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