Will Stem Cells Regrow You New Cartilage if You Have None? Nope…

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stem cells regrow cartilage

I love writing about what I see day in and out. Yesterday I evaluated a patient who had been to a local West2North “stem cell” seminar and was told that they could regenerate cartilage in her foot. However, the joint they wanted to treat was without any cartilage and didn’t hurt and caused her no functional disability. Hence, this is a great opportunity to talk about the ethical use of orthobiologics.

What Can Stem Cells Do?

The idea behind stem cells is pretty cool. They can help damaged tissue heal and may be able to replace certain types of damaged tissue. We’ve been using stem cells to treat joints for longer than anyone else on earth. What we’ve learned is that while stem cells, used in the correct way, can help get rid of the need for some invasive surgeries, they are not magic pixie dust, and they do have limitations. One of those is that they will NOT regrow cartilage in a joint without any left. Let me explain.

There are countless animal models where stem cells, used in very specific ways, can help small holes in the cartilage heal. However, we have no research that shows that stem cells can regrow the cartilage in a joint that has severe “bone on bone” arthritis. This is what we have observed in the clinic as well. Meaning that we have never seen any evidence of significant cartilage growth in “bone on bone” arthritis regardless of which stem cell type or prep was used. To see what is and isn’t possible in real MRI results with actual stem cell procedures, see my video below:

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I Went to a Seminar and They Showed Me X-rays of Regrown Cartilage in “Bone on Bone” Knee Arthritis!

Regrettably, you got scammed! Like every good magic trick, there is always something you missed. In this case, I created a little example below of how I tilted the X-ray beam slightly and created the appearance of more joint-space width (hence more cartilage) in my knee:

knee stem cell xray

Another trick often used is to inaccurately place the cursors while measuring the width of the joint. Below is an actual before and after “stem cell” treatment X-ray from a chiro clinic where they seem to have purposefully (or unconsciously) mismeasured the “after” X-ray, which makes it look like more cartilage is there, but in reality, the real width of the joint never changed. In this case, the real width of the joint is shown by the dashed lines, while the arrows point to where the chiropractor placed the cursor to measure the joint width. See what I mean below:

hip stem cell injection

Chiros Injecting Dead Amniotic or Cord Tissue

The treatments that are often offered at chiro clinics are amniotic or umbilical cord based. Regrettably, these tissues don’t have any living and functional cells, let alone stem cells. See my video below to learn more:

My Patient’s Story

My patient is an active elderly woman who developed severe arthritis in her midfoot. One joint on both sides has no cartilage. This area doesn’t hurt or prevent her from doing anything. She went to a local West2North chiropractic “stem cell” seminar touting amniotic “stem cells” (really nonviable amniotic tissue) and was told they could regrow her cartilage. She then went to our local seminar and found out the opposite, so she came in to be seen. I told her that there was no way that any stem cell therapy (even a real one) would regrow cartilage in these joints, and I refused to perform a stem cell procedure.

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The chiropractic clinic chain she went to was recently fined and stripped of its ability to perform “stem cell” injections by the attorney general’s office in North Dakota because it was misrepresenting what the technology could do. In Colorado, the West2North chain was the subject of an investigative report that found many disturbing things. For example, that a nonmedical person was the one determining candidacy for these procedures.

Would I Have Treated This Joint if the Patient Had Pain and Disability?

In some severe arthritis joints that are “bone on bone” and are causing pain, an actual bone marrow stem cell therapy can help reduce pain and increase function without regrowing any cartilage. For example, patients with this type of knee arthritis typically do well. This can work through precise X-ray guided direct injections into the bone lesions that can cause pain in these patients or by injecting lax ligaments that are causing instability. Even just injecting specific parts of the joint sometimes will reduce inflammation for two to seven years. However, in other joints, like the hip, the success rate in severe arthritis is much lower. Hence, it’s critical to understand which patients can be helped and which patients should be told that this therapy is not for them.

Why Regenexx Is Different as Told by Another Patient

This comment from a former patient was recently left on Facebook:

“Paul Lyon- Lots of “stem cell clinic’s” have been opening up recently…Regenexx has been around since I think 08?…ask yourself before you jump into something, how many procedures have they done, how much research do they do…if your going to look into stem cell therapy, do your research….
I’ve had both knees done 6 years ago…2 orthopedic Doctors wanted to replace..im pretty much pain free. I bike, hike, ski, very active at 72….
I’m in Denver now, my wife just had her hip done..no surgery…we walked around Boulder the next day…all with her own stem cells…do your research, you’ll end up with a trained Regenexx doctor, you won’t be sorry…”

The upshot? Please don’t get snookered into believing that an injection by a nurse in a chiropractor’s office will regrow you new cartilage in a “bone on bone” joint. That isn’t going to happen. In addition, actually getting long-term results using a real stem cell procedure is difficult and requires a precise diagnosis of what’s wrong and which structures should be targeted using X-ray or ultrasound guidance.

This blog post provides general information to help the reader better understand regenerative medicine, musculoskeletal health, and related subjects. All content provided in this blog, website, or any linked materials, including text, graphics, images, patient profiles, outcomes, and information, are not intended and should not be considered or used as a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Please always consult with a professional and certified healthcare provider to discuss if a treatment is right for you.

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18 thoughts on “Will Stem Cells Regrow You New Cartilage if You Have None? Nope…

  1. Jan

    Are there any ways that cartilage can be transplanted or introduced into joints where it has worn away to provide the scaffolding for further cartilage regrowth? I have bone on bone hip arthritis which causes me minimal discomfort but is limiting activity, from walking and hiking on the large scale to putting my right sock on quickly on the small scale. I keep hoping something will be developed that offers me hope of avoiding a hip replacement surgery.

    1. Regenexx Team

      None that have been successful that we know of, but the hyper-focus on cartilage and the lack thereof is misplaced. The fact that you’re not in severe pain is a good sign as in hip arthritis it’s more about what’s going on in the bone than the cartilage. Please see: https://regenexx.com/blog/hip-arthritis-getting-worse-new-research-says-bone/ Hip arthritis can escalate VERY quickly, so important to treat. To see if you would be a Candidate, please submit the Are You a Candidate form, or call 866 684 9919

  2. Evie

    So what you are saying is if you are bone on bone in your hips nothing but surgery will help? When I spoke with your office that is not what I was led to believe.

    1. Regenexx Team


      No, we’re not saying that. Patients over 55 with severe hip arthritis are not Candidates for the same day stem cell procedure but are often Candidates for the culture expanded procedure in Grand Cayman. Importantly, though, being told you have bone on bone hip arthritis can be misleading. We’d need a recent MRI, and ultimately an exam to see if you’re a Candidate and for what procedure.

  3. Barbara

    I have arthritis in both knees, bone on bone in some areas. Was told in 11/2015 that I was a candidate for double knee replacement. By an orthopedic surgeon, but definitely not a pushy one. Somehow I have come up with the right ‘magic’ to reduce the pain greatly. But the left knee is no longer functioning well making stairs difficult. As well as putting added stress on my right side with much standing or walking. I called Regenexx this week and have an appointment next week in Missouri City. I have picked up a report and disc from an MRI from March of 2015.
    After reading this article, I’m wondering if there’s even a stem cell option for me?
    I have arthritis issues in both thumbs and possibly in the hips and shoulders. Surgery just doesn’t seem to be a sustainable solution for me. Plus, I have many allergies and chemical sensitivities.

    1. Regenexx Team

      Not to worry, this blog doesn’t change the many thousands of people we’ve helped avoid knee replacements! It simply points out the myth that the problem is the loss of cartilage. Dr. Quarashi will give you an honest assessment on whether you are a Candidate or not. let us know how that goes. Please see: https://regenexx.com/blog/ironman-stem-cell-procedure/ and https://regenexx.com/blog/knee-stem-cell-injection/ and https://regenexx.com/blog/knee-arthritis-stem-cell-treatment/

  4. Andrea

    I eas wondering if this helps with spinal degenerative discs/ bulging. Also, any chance it would help in the Thoracic region?

    1. Regenexx Team

      We treat DDD and Bulging discs regularly. Please see: https://regenexx.com/the-regenexx-procedures/back-surgery-alternative/ and this was an interesting thoracic case: https://regenexx.com/blog/car-crash-upper-back-injury/ If you would like to see if you would be a Candidate, please submit the Are You a Candidate Form, or call 866 684 9919

  5. Pattu

    So, according to this article, stem cells will not grow cartilage where there is none, but may provide some pain relief. My question is … what about PRP? Or Prolozone? Of those three, including stem cells, which is more effective?

    1. Regenexx Team


      Where there is none, correct. But that cartilage is THE problem, is a myth. Of the three, Stem cells have the greatest regenerative potential. PRP contains growth factors and cytokines that stimulate the stem cells in the joint. Stem cell procedures are used when there are longer enough stem cells in the joint to execute repair. PRP is used as the final step in Regenexx stem cell procedures.

  6. Patti

    Hi again. Typo in first message … I meant to say prolotherapy. My question is about pain relief, not cartilage regrowth … since I don’t have any in my knee! What do y’all recommend that works best for pain relief … stem cells, PRP, or prolotherapy? Maybe none of them work for pain relief only? Thanks again … Patti

    1. Regenexx Team

      We’d need to examine you to determine what would be best to address the pain in your case.

  7. Chad

    I am a 45 year old male with bone on bone of left hip. Its so painful sometimes. I wish i died the day i got injured. I spoke with one doctor i like and trust. Whom said with hip bone on bone nothing can be done. I just don’t ant to believe him. But after reading you page I am coming to grips with i should have died that night. But i never asked if these treatments can stop the pain so i can walk like the Denver happy couple you helped above.

    1. Regenexx Team

      Hi Chad,
      Sorry to hear you are, and have been, in such pain. There are many things that can cause hip pain besides lack of cartilage and definitively diagnosing the source of the hip pain is very important before replacing a hip. . Please see: https://regenexx.com/blog/hip-replacement-pain/ and https://regenexx.com/blog/hip-labrum-tears/ and https://regenexx.com/blog/hip-arthritis-x-ray-not-associated-pain/ To see if we could help in your case, please give us a call at 855 622 7838, or submit the Candidate form here: http://www.regenexx.com

  8. Giani Urena

    Can stem Cells helps with hip necrosis

    1. Regenexx Team

      Hi Giana,
      We treat Hip Avascular Necrosis regularly. Please see: https://regenexx.com/blog/avn-hip-stem-cell/ A candidacy review is needed to see if you would be a candidate.

  9. Dr. David Hartz

    Chiropractors in. North Dakota do not inject. You probably mean Naturopath. You need to get the profession right. Or is it better to unjustly slam chiropractic once more!

    1. Chris Centeno, MD Post author

      David, yes, chiros hire NPs and PAs who they can legally supervise to perform these fake injections.

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