FAIRFAX, Va. (WUSA9) -- For hardcore 30-year-old athletes to baby boomers, achy and worn out joints can literally be a pain.
Cateena Powers know about the pain, after years of athletic competition and training she developed arthritis in both knees.
She didn't necessarily want to have her knees replaced. Especially after she found about a new stem cell therapy that can regenerate her current knees.
Powers says, "So I did the right knee first and it's a series of injections."
"I would say I started to feel a difference maybe in about two days after that series of injections... two days! And then the next week I saw some definition in my knee. I thought, I can see my knee cap oh my gosh! So I said, i'm doing the left one."
A new platelet-rich-therapy (PRP) called Regenexx is the latest in a number of PRP therapies that are growing in popularity.
These PRP therapies use the patient's own stem cells to regenerate areas of the body that tend to wear down over time. This is used for a lot of conditions that used to require open surgery.
StemCell Arts in Fairfax is the only clinic in the Washington, D.C. metro area that offers this procedure.
Dr. Mayo Friedlis of StemCell Arts in Fairfax says, "We are treating a lot of rotator cuff problems that are actually rotator cup tears. We are treating epicondylitis or golfer's elbow or tennis elbow, and we are treating hip arthritis, ankle achilles tendonitis, ankle sprains."
"Anyplace that there's a ligament or tendon injury is amenable to this," adds Dr. Friedlis.
Physical fitness is a passion for 76 year old Norman Nicholson of Silver Spring. These days, he exercises for at least an hour everyday.
Nicholson says, "I figure skate, I ski, in the summer I bike, I hike."
His fitness regimen is "Superman-like" for someone his age. But a few years ago, he stumbled upon his own version of kryptonite.
Nicholson says, "It was in 2010 when I started having problems with the knee."
Due to the knee, he couldn't do most exercises like he used to. After orthoscopic surgery and physical therapy he was still unable to do many of the things he wanted to. Nicholson saw Dr. Mayo Friedlis after learning about the Regenexx therapy.
Dr. Friedlis says, "Sometimes when we're injured or when the body goes through a state of degeneration, we start developing arthritis or wear and tear as we age. The stem cells aren't as plentiful."
The hip bone marrow is full of plentiful, healthy stem cells. So the stem cells are extracted from the hip, so they can be applied to the injured area, where healthy stem cells are not as plentiful.
Before the stem cells are inserted into the injured section of the body, they are mixed into rich blood platelets. The red and white blood cells are separated from these platelets.
Dr. Friedlis says, "It turns out these red cells and white cells actually inhibit the platelets from doing thier thing."
Once the platelets and stem cells are mixed and carefully injected into the body, amazing things can happen.
Dr. Friedlis says, "Those bone marrow cells will turn into cartilage cells, into ligament cells, tendon cells, wherever the are of injury is the stem cells are smart enough to figure out what they have to create."
In Norman Nicholson's case, he got some much needed cartilage. His knee has regenerated and it feels like he's many years younger.
Nicholson says, "Last fall we did the stem cell treatments, and this February I was up in upstate New York. And for 4 days in a row I've spent an hour, hour and a half cross country skiing with no trouble at all... so i'm sold."
This experimental procedure is not covered by insurance but it is covered by some flex spending plans.
All of the Regenexx procedures performed in the US are same-day procedures that comply with "CFR21 part1271", requiring stem cells to be used on the same day that they are extracted.
Costs for this treatment can run between $4,000 to $6,000 depending on the patient. Some patients may benefit from cheaper, older PRP therapies that start around $1,200.
Here is the complete list of conditions this therapy treats:
- Non-healing bony fracture
- Bulging (non herniated) lumbar (lower back) disc
- Avascular Necrosis of the shoulder, hip, knee, or ankle
- Osteoarthritis of the knee, hip, or ankle
- Partial tear of the rotator cuff
- Meniscus tear or ACL, MCL tears
- Knee, hip, and ankle pain
- Limited range of motion, stiffness, swelling, and tenderness