Stem Cells in Medicine

Stem Cells in Medicine
Franklin Randall Polun Podiatrist (Foot and Ankle Specialist)

Dr. Franklin Polun is a podiatrist practicing in Potomac, MD. Dr. Polun is a medical doctor specializing in the treatment of the foot , ankle and related parts of the leg. As a podiatrist, Dr. Polun diagnoses and treats conditions of the feet. The feet are key body parts that give a person stability, absorb shock, allow... more

With the medical field constantly advancing, it is becoming increasingly more possible to avoid major surgery. Major athletes are able to use stem cells to help heal after being injured instead of going through a traumatic and debilitating procedure. While stem cell treatments are commonly used with big-league athletes, we offer similar procedures here in our office.

Stem cell grafts and injections are part of our commonly performed procedures. We use AmnioFix Sports Med grafts and injections on our patients for a variety of treatments. We have used injections to help with arthritis, reduce pain, regulate inflammation, decrease scar tissue formation, and increase healing. We also use stem cell allografts during surgeries to help amplify the healing process while also reducing the pain and scar appearance.

AmnioFix allografts are made from the donated afterbirth of consenting mothers who undergo scheduled Caesarean sections. This collection method helps eliminate ethical issues that sometimes accompany the discussion on stem cells. The donated tissue is then tested for diseases and other issues that could complicate the graft formation. From there, the tissue is cleaned and preserved in a PURION process, which includes sterilization. The tissue is either dispensed as a powder that can be hydrated to create an injection or as an allograft that can be laid on top of an incision before sutured.

With this technology being so new, it is understandable that several patients have been skeptical about its effectiveness. However, after performing many of these procedures and using the grafts in most of our surgeries, we can testify to the effectiveness of the stem cells. Patients almost always report decreased pain and scar tissue. We have even been able to completely heal plantar plates, torn tendons, and ruptured ligaments.

What makes these injections and grafts so effective is the growth factors that are in high abundance in the donated placenta. Growth factors are natural agents that cause our bodies to trigger its own healing process. They target our cells to the site of the injury and help regenerate the damaged tissue. There are 226 different growth factors in the AmnioFix allografts. These growth factors include Transforming Growth Factor Beta, which promotes soft tissue healing with reduced scar tissue formation, Fibroblast Growth Factor, which helps collagen matrix formation, and Platelet Derived Growth Factors, which promote cell proliferation in connective tissue. The amniotic tissue from the placenta also contains extracellular matrix and advanced levels of collagen, both of which can help the healing process.

Our positive experience with the grafts speaks for itself, but additionally, there have been over 25 clinical and scientific papers published in peer reviewed journals. More importantly, there have been over 500,000 grafts distributed for patient use and not a single adverse reaction to the product has been recorded.

While this product does seem like magic, it is not always the first plan of action. We generally use the stem cells as a second or third plan. Conservative treatments like antiinflammatories, physical therapy, pain laser, and bracing are generally used first. When those treatments don’t work, we will then look into trying a stem cell injection. Stem cell injections can also act as an alternative to steroid cortisone injections when the patient has either already had several cortisone injections or if the patient does not want a steroid injection. However, when a patient has an injury with high levels of inflammation, the stem cell injections can be used as a first step treatment.

Aftercare instructions after the stem-cell injections are generally less intense and as time-consuming as the aftercare for a surgery. Resolution of pain from inflammation will often resolve within 1-2 weeks after the injection is given. Patients can normally even put weight on the foot that had the injection, which helps them return to their normal life quickly and easily. We recommend that patients ice and elevate their treatment site as needed. Occasionally, the injection may cause manageable and localized soreness and/or redness but this will last only a few days at most.

This AmnioFix product is generally marketed as a sports medicine treatment, but we have used the injections and grafts on injuries not sports-related, such as treating plantar fasciitis. We can use the injections on any problem being caused by tissue degeneration or unhealthy tissue. We also frequently use the grafts in wound care for diabetic patients. We can lay a graft over an open wound to enhance the healing of the wound. We have used the graft in several severe situations and have even been able to save a patient from amputation.

Additionally, we use the stem cell grafts in most of our surgeries. We place the grafts on the incision after we have concluded the surgery. This is often supplementary to PRP injections. We have noticed that when we use these grafts, scar formation is often reduced and patients report quick healing. As doctors, one of our most important goals is to keep patients pain-free and faster healing allows patients to move reduce the amount of time they are in pain.

Sometimes patients worry that stem cell injections will be too costly but the cost doesn’t quite break the bank. If price is an issue, conservative treatments can be tried first. However, with no risk involved in having the injections, a lot of patients want to just begin with the injections. As stated above, no adverse reactions have been found, but a surplus amount of positive reactions have been recorded. Therefore, we generally recommend the treatment to patients who are eager to try something new.

We already frequently use the stem cells in our office for a variety of reasons. With the medical field advancing even further, it is likely that these amniotic products will increase in use and in variety of use. We hope that eventually, the product will develop even further to eliminate even more pain and scar tissue as well as increase the healing process to a new level. We are excited for the future of stem cell use in medicine.