Recently there have been a rash of reports debating the efficacy of stem cells. Even Robin Young acknowledges having ownership in this technology, witnessed by the many articles that are dedicated to promoting stem cells on OTW. It has been reported that stem cells are the ultimate therapeutic panacea for your biologic needs. Some people are paying up to $7,500 to have their own stem cells harvested, and stored for future use, regardless, whether they really know anything about stem cells and how they can be used. Of course, a nominal $70 per month storage fee is included. There is no free lunch in America. But as an industry insider, one has to wonder, is it too early to declare that some have found the fountain of youth? Could this be a re-run of an old movie? As usual, there are two sides to every debate. Some scientists and physicians are taking a conservative approach, warning that there is a need for ongoing research to validating the efficacy of stems cells for various applications before we start singing hosanna's in praise of another technology. TSB is not a skeptic. I believe that software is the future of spine, yet, before hardware becomes passe, there is plenty of work to be done. Please excuse my naivete, before we coronate stem cells ...........why the fuss?
By some estimates, it is forecasted that the stem cell market has the potential to be a $250 million dollar market by the year 2015. Hopefully, this forecast was not made by Tony Viscogliosi. Like any new therapy, validating efficacy and outcomes will determine its success or failure, and we're not talking anecdotal evidence. The so-called experts claim that stem cells are an improvement over current biologics. Yet, isn't the current technology that is being sold by NuVasive and Orthofix, old technology with a new marketing spin? TSB believes that somewhere deep in the recess of those little stem cells, there may be answers to some of life's wonderful mysteries. Spinal Cord injuries? Brain Tumors? Soft-Tissue Injuries? Spine Surgery? Trauma? But before we continue the quest for the Holy Grail in spine, can some industry "experts" pull back on the onslaught of articles proclaiming that stem cells regenerated another tail on the Kimodo Dragon, or that stem cells were found to have grown another head on an 8 year old boy in South Dakota. That one was in the National Enquirer. If we could dress up Robin Young in a togo, what a sight, and have him walk around NASS proclaiming, Stem Cells, Stem Cells, Stem Cells, he would be playing the role of Commodus in Gladiator at his coronation proclaiming to be the Emperor of Stem Cells. The real pioneers are the people in the laboratories that persevere and commit an endless amount of time and energy into finding how these little cells interact.
Alan Milinazzo was quoted in an article as saying; "The traditional rod and screw device implants are very invasive techniques, and if you can remove the need for hardware, that is a benefit, and biologics can play a big role in that." No kidding Alan. But I don't want to break your bubble, it's gonna take advancements in gene therapy before you start talking about removing the need for invasive surgery and the implantation of hardware. What a pioneer. The newest attempt is by Allosource. The company has launched its stem cell bone growth substitute derived from adipose tissue and cancellous bone that is processed and cryopreserved. But here is a question for our readers, in times of economic distress, why are people donating tissue that others are making money off of? Some claim that biologics is where the industry is heading. That's quite the broad stroke of a brush. What do some of these people think has been going on in the industry during the last ten years? Of course there are wonderful opportunities to make money at the expense of others.
If adult MSC's are the future in biologics, then TSB has a simple question, why would someone want someone else's MSC? If a surgeon could harvest a patients stem cells intra-operatively, and deliver them in real time, why isn't the industry looking for additional ways to contain cost, rather than driving up the cost of biologics. At a time when the state of the U.S. healthcare market is in a total state of disarray, why are we looking to increase the cost of medicine? Not to burst the bubble of any of the aforementioned visionaries, but hardware is not going away, anywhere soon. As long as surgeons are performing invasive, or even minimally invasive surgery in hope of alleviating back pain, there will always be a need to provide structural support. In closing, TSB must ask our readers, is this hype or is this the Holy Grail when it comes to spine?