A study cited in the Journal of Medical Cases has demonstrated successful results utilizing autologous (the patient’s own) stem cells to repair a torn meniscus without surgical intervention. Meniscal injuries are the most frequent knee injuries, and they are particularly common in athletes, but can also occur due to aging. Typically, meniscal tears are treated with surgical intervention, which requires “stitches” meant to hold the tear together until it heals, or cutting out the torn part entirely. The surgical intervention method, though safe, requires extensive physical therapy to strengthen supporting muscles, as well as weeks of recovery time on crutches. Imaging of a tear following a stem cell therapy showed that 9 months after a stem cell injection, the tear healed to the point where it was virtually unnoticeable.
A team at the Stem Cell Medical Clinic in Seoul, South Korea has been investigating the use of mesenchymal stem cells [MSCs] as a non-invasive, non-surgical alternative for repairing a torn meniscus. Meniscus tears prove complicated because of their lack of vascularity and blood flow, significantly increasing healing time. Serious injuries to the least vascular part of the meniscus normally require meniscectomies. The use of MSCs has demonstrated an ability to regenerate the fibrocartilage of the meniscus, as well as prevent early development of osteoarthritis, a major side effect of a meniscectomy.