They are believed to help the natural regenerative processes in the body.
Hence they have earned the nickname as “mini drug stores” based on their ability to secrete “a spectrum of bioactive molecules” and “support the natural regeneration of focal injuries.”
Stem cells can be harvested from certain parts of the human body, most notably bone marrow and adipose tissue (fat).
Harvesting bone marrow stem cells is a significantly more invasive and time-consuming procedure that is performed using general anesthesia.
Lipogems offers a novel approach to orthopedic stem cell treatments by using a person’s own fat.
The procedure uses a small incision into an area of subcutaneous fat, from which a quantity of fat tissue is harvested and processed by the Lipogems apparatus.
“The technology itself, which really is the device that processes the fat, creates a concentration of fat that has been cleansed of all the extraneous things like red blood cells and fibrous tissues,” Cole told Healthline.
The concentrated stem cells within that fat tissue are then applied to the problematic joint or bone area.
Lipogems offers a streamlined procedure for stem cell treatment, but there is nothing new about the science itself.
The use of stem cells to treat a variety of conditions has been ongoing for some time now.
“What we’re lacking is really good data at this point in the clinical setting,” Cole said. “There is substantial data in the laboratory suggesting that these cells may function in the way I’ve described: reducing inflammation and so forth. But, we really don’t have yet much in the way of good solid clinical data saying that definitively this is making a difference.”
Instead, he would like those seeking orthopedic treatment to understand that Lipogems is just one part of a much larger and more complex suite of tools used by physicians.
It has to be taken into context of all the other possible treatment options, from simply icing down a swollen ankle, to changing your daily activity, to surgery.
“The unfortunate thing is that people think, well this is the solution that can be used instead of, say, a joint replacement and no longer do we need to do surgery,” said Cole.
“Nothing could be further from the truth.”
Nonetheless, Cole and his team are still excited about the possibilities of the Lipogems procedure.
Using a readily available and easily accessible substance like fat as a source of stem cells could have far-reaching implications for procedures in the future.
“We’re optimistic and intuitively there is a good argument to be made that this is as good or better than any other source of stem cells,” said Cole.