Alan M. Hirahara, MD, FRCSC
Orthopaedic SurgeonSpecialist in Sports Medicine

Stem Cells

The use of stem cells in orthopaedic surgery is an emerging area in OrthoBiologics.

Stem cells are defined as: "an undifferentiated cell of a multicellular organism that is capable of giving rise to indefinitely more cells of the same type, and from which certain other kinds of cell arise by differentiation.  They are able to self renew and can maintain and repair normal tissue."

There are two main types of stem cells: embryonic and adult.  A zygote is an example of a totipotent cell, a cell which is capable of developing into a complete organism.  Embryonic stem cells are pluripotent cells, a cell capable of forming any cell in the body.  These cells are not present in children or adults.  Anything beyond a zygote or ESC only has multipotent cells, a cell only capable of differentiating down specific lineages.  For example, a mesenchymal stem cell can change into bone, muscle, tendon, etc while a hematopoietic stell cell can change into blood cell types.  Since humans do not retain regenerative capabilities (like salamanders), we are limited in our healing potential.

By harvesting specific types of stem cells from bone or fat, we can aid in healing certain types of problems.  These cells cannot help in all disease processes or cure all.  We are working to understand the healing of the body and maximize our potential to repair and heal injuries.

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