Did Regenexx Invent Orthopedic Stem Cell Injections?

by Chris Centeno, MD /

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You may have noticed that our tagline on the main web page has changed. It’s now, “Where Orthopedic Stem Cell Injections were Invented”. Above you’ll find a great compilation of the patient stories by master filmmaker Doug Orchard. These are real people who we’ve helped over the last few years and this video also ends with that same new tagline. Can we support it? Did we really invent stem cell injections? Let’s review the timeline.

What is an Orthopedic Stem Cell Injection?

The focus of our discussion is the primary use of stem cell injection procedures to avoid the need for more invasive surgery. You’ll also notice that this overlaps with the definition of interventional orthopedics.

The History of Orthopedic Stem Cell Procedures

The physician who can lay the best claim for starting same-day, orthopedic bone marrow procedures using surgical techniques is Phillippe Hernigou from Paris. In the late 90s, he began publishing on the use of bone marrow to treat bone diseases like fracture non-union and avascular necrosis. These procedures were largely surgical in nature.

One of the things that Hernigou hasn’t really published on is the use of stem cell injections to avoid the need for orthopedic surgery. The closest to primary injection therapy that he has published has been shoulder rotator cuff tear injections after surgery. While this was performed with ultrasound, the goal wasn’t to replace surgery or to see how bone marrow concentrate performed to heal rotator cuff tears independently. The goal was to use the injection to augment surgical results. Hence, while Dr. Hernigou’s work is pioneering in the use of a same day, bone marrow based stem cell procedure with surgery, there is no use of stem cells to treat common orthopedic problems to avoid the need for surgery.

Looking Back at the Research

If we really want to see who invented stem cell injections to treat orthopedic problems, we have to go back into the published research. To do that, we can use my 2017 Orthopedic Stem Cell Research Infographic. If we do that, we see it’s all Dr. Henigou before 2006, but the first publications of anyone injecting stem cells into the joints with hip or knee arthritis was Centeno (me):

So I’m pretty sure I can lay claim to being the first to inject stem cells into patients with common forms of arthritis with the goal of avoiding surgery.

The next publications were surgical in nature, again focused on bone healing in Hendrich in 2009 and then ankle surgery by Giannini and then Hernigou again on hip AVN. In March 2010 we published on 227 patients that included knee, hip, ankle, shoulder, hand, and low back disc stem cell injections. This is on patients going back to 2005. The next publication on Disc injections was by Yoshikawa in Japan in May of that year and it too was surgical. These patients go back to approximately 2007. So it’s again clear, that if we include stem cell injections of multiple joints and spine, we were again the first to publish and treat.

The upshot? Based on the published medical literature, it’s clear that our new tagline at the end of our new video and now on the main page of the website is accurate. We did invent orthopedic stem cell injections. Also, enjoy our new video, as I’m proud that what we began in 2005 as a way to avoid more invasive surgery has helped so many people around the world! Also, remember that what we offer is a medical procedure and not magic. While these patients are great successes, all medical procedures including ours have a success and failure rate. If you want to see the up to date data on how all patients have fared, please see our web-based, orthopedic stem cell treatment outcome app.

DISCLAIMER: Like all medical procedures, Regenexx® Procedures have a success and failure rate. Patient reviews and testimonials on this site should not be interpreted as a statement on the effectiveness of our treatments for anyone else.

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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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