Recently the federal government dedicated $85 million for the creation of the Armed Forces Institute of Regenerative Medicine (AFIRM) to fund a type of stem cell therapy for veterans injured in Iraq and Afghanistan (h/t Wesley Smith). This therapy helps grow brand new bone:
Orthopaedic stem cell surgery has been practiced by only a handful of doctors nationwide. Proponents complain that medicine involving adult stem cells is underfunded because it is often confused with controversial embryonic stem cell research. But the stem cells Einhorn uses don’t come from embryos; they come from the patients themselves.
“His own live cells,” Einhorn said.
Einhorn extracts stem cells from the patient’s bone marrow, drawn from the pelvis. Some is used for what Einhorn calls “grout.”
“By mixing the bone marrow cells with protein, it gives me a kind of a grouting material that I can use to fill in the gaps,” he said.
Dr. George Muschler, who pioneered the surgery at the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio, which is a grant recipient, said, “I think [the procedure] has applications to some challenges that might have previously cost patients their leg, because we didn’t have a way to heal their bone.”
Muschler has been monitoring patients in the past six years, and says he is convinced that the method results in the growth of strong, new permanent bone.
What great news not only for stem cell research, but for our men and women in combat who are coming home with some devastating injuries.