Stem cell therapy has the extraordinary ability to return patients with tendon, joint and ligament injuries to full function in a matter of weeks, but its secret ingredient is nothing illegal or performance-enhancing. The treatment utilizes the patient’s own non embryonic, non-controversial stem cells to allow damaged tissue to rebuild itself and return the injured area to pre-injury health.
After having stem cell therapy to treat a shoulder and elbow injury, New York Yankees pitcher Bartolo Colón is being investigated by Major League Baseball. The inquiry centers on determining whether stem cell therapy qualifies as a performance-enhancing drug and if he should be punished for using it. Human growth hormone, a performance-enhancing drug that is sometimes given as an injection to baseball players to improve their athletic abilities, is banned in baseball and MLB officials are frequently concerned about whether their players’ treatments include substances that may give them a competitive advantage.
In a recent interview with the South Florida Sun Sentinel, back pain Bergen County specialist Dr. Damon Noto explained the procedure and clarified its purposes. The first step is to take a sample of either adipose (fat) tissue or bone marrow from the patient and put the tissue through a spinning device called a centrifuge to extract the stem cells. These stem cells, called mesenchymal stem cells (or MSCs), are different from embryonic stem cells in that they come from the adult patient’s body yet have the ability to form into any type of tissue.
The extracted MSCs are then injected into the patient at the site of the injury, and over a period of several weeks the damaged tissue heals itself and returns to pre-injury health. Colón reports that his shoulder feels the way it did when he was in his twenties, a premise many MLB officials worry could mean that the treatment is actually improving athletes’ performance beyond simply healing their injuries. If it’s giving them abilities they didn’t have before their injuries, stem cell therapy could be out-of-line with MLB standards.
There’s no research published yet about stem cell therapy in humans, but research on the elasticity of horse tendons after stem cell therapy has found that their tendons are as elastic as before the injury but don’t gain “superpowers.” Though this suggest that stem cell therapy meets MLB requirements, concerns over players without injuries using the therapy may cause them to form a committee to regulate when it’s allowed and when it isn’t. Stem cell therapy Long Island is available with Dr. Noto for individuals suffering from athletic injuries.