Severe Shoulder Rotator Cuff Tear treated with Stem Cells

Shoulder rotator-cuff tears are painful and usually require surgery. Can stem cells treat such a condition? Regenexx has attempted to do just that with surprising success.

One patient who is called JS had a particularly bad rotator cuff tear that included a retraction of the rotator cuff muscle. Stem cell treatments might not help heal this tear since the two ends of the tendon or muscle need to be surgically pulled together for the stem cells to heal the tendon. When the tendon experiences a retracted tear of the rotator cuff muscle the two sides of the tear pull back like a rubber band. The tendon bunches up on either side of the tear, and it is difficult to envision how stem cells might heal such a tear, since tears where the two ends of the tear are close together can be filled in with stem cells that are precisely applied to the tear.

All of this changed, however, with the treatment of a patient known as JS. He had a 1.5 cm retracted tear from a weight-lifting injury. After reluctantly agreeing to treat him with a mesenchymal stem cell application, they placed the shoulder in a splint to bring the two ends of the tear closer together. Then JS received a Regenexx-SD procedure that was followed up with a Regenexx-SCP procedure. The Regenexx-SD procedure takes mesenchymal and hematopoietic stem cells from a bone marrow aspiration and then mixes them with a preparation of platelets taken from peripheral blood. Regenexx-SCP treatment uses a specific stem cell population from bone marrow (CD66e+ cells) that are mixed with a platelet-rich mixture from blood serum and injected into joints.

The Regenexx physicians had low expectations of this procedure, but to their surprise, JS reported a 99% improvement over the three months. A follow-up ultrasound demonstrated excellent healing with some fill-in of the retracted gap.  For MRIs for this patient’s shoulder before and after the treatment, see here.

One year after the shoulder stem cell injections, the improvement due to precision injections of the patient’s own stem cells is nothing short of amazing. The large gap in the rotator cuff  is now healed.  For MRI images of JS’s shoulder one year after the Regenexx treatment, see here.  JS did require a specialized treatment and bracing protocol unique to the Regenexx procedures and developed by Dr. Hanson. This is an example of stem-based orthopedic surgery at its best.

Forbes blogs About the FDA v. Regenexx Stem Cell Lawsuit That May Shape Our Medical Future

Gergana Koleva blogs about public health for Forbes. She has written an excellent piece on the FDA’s lawsuit against Regenexx in their quest to regulate (read shunt down) a procedure that uses a patient’s own stem cells to treat ailing joints. In this lawsuit, the FDA justified their action by stating that cells are chemicals, just like drugs, and therefore, the have the right to regulate them. Ms. Koleva rightly notes that this lawsuit will change the face of medicine and medical innovation in this country. Read her blog article here.