Though still considered somewhat experimental, stem cells are becoming a useful tool for surgeons like Dr. Popp. He can harvest stem cells from a patient’s own fat and then spin it down to isolate the stem cells within, and then inject it back into the patient.
The Stem cells go where they are needed the most. They might be better off being called “smart cells.”
Dr. Popp explains, “If you have lost cartilage in your knee, your bones are rubbing against each other and you’re having pain, theoretically if you inject stem cells in there they will recognize there is supposed to be cartilage there and they will become cartilage.”
In other words, they go to an affected area, become what’s needed and fix it.
Dr. Popp said it’s important to know the difference between mesenchymal stem cells, which is what he harvests and uses, versus embryonic stem cells.
The Two Big Differences
- Embryonic stem cells come from embryos; mesenchymal stem cells come from fat.
- Embryonic stem cells can become any kind of cells including cancer cells. Mesenchymal stem cells cannot do this. They can only become bone, tissue, skin or muscle.
Dr. Popp said there are many places to get mesenchymal stem cells including bone marrow. But in his office, they use fat. Everyone’s body has millions of stem cells and fat is an easy target source. For instance, he said he can use liposuction on someone’s love handles, then take the fat from that, spin it down, add collaginase to breakdown and free the stem cells and then centrifuge it to draw the stem cell layer off.
The resulting fluid is then injected into someone with a bad knees or a bad hip. Dr. Popp prefers to use a two-pronged approach for best results. He said he does a combination of injections into the patient and also puts stem cells in the patient’s IV.
“Giving patients stem cells through both routes has a higher potential for improvements than if we just introduced the stem cells through one,” he said.
Uses for Stem Cells
The most common ailments Dr. Popp uses stem cell injections for are bad knees and bad hips. For those who have issues with their back, he is happy to collect the stem cells but he will then give the fluid to the patient’s spine surgeon or orthopedic surgeon to inject.
He said you can see the effects of stem cells for many years.
Got a sore knee or an aching hip? Call Dr. Popp’s office and set up your consultation, 402-391-4558.