Using “Stem Cells” in a Sports Med Practice: Case Study
Christopher Rogers, M.D., founder of the San Diego Orthobiologics Medical Group, recently drafted and blasted out a press announcement saying that his practice is now offering a new/old treatment called Lipogems for painful sports medicine type injuries. And that that treatment was a major advance in regenerative medicine.
Well. There is more to the story, but it is interesting and instructive to see how Dr. Rogers is using these advanced orthobiologics treatments to build his practice.
To put a face on his press announcement, Dr. Rogers offered professional soccer player, Brian Farber of the San Diego Sockers who was diagnosed with a torn patellar ligament and, according to the press announcement, after two years of debilitating pain, found relief at San Diego Orthobiologics with Lipogems.
Lipogems is a system that uses fat tissue from liposuction to create an injectable material which has been used for years in cosmetic surgeries to fill wrinkles or otherwise support sagging skin. Recent studies have found evidence that it can be effective in treating joint pain. Here is a link to a bibliography of those studies.
Using fat tissue to treat such orthopedic problems as arthritis or ligament pain is not new. Several companies developed stromal vascular fraction (SVF) systems over the years which used an enzyme-based system to extract “stem cells” and other helpful materials from patients’ fat tissue. The FDA decided that these systems fell under the rigorous cell-drug licensing category, which put a serious crimp in the SVF approach.
The manufacturer of the Lipogems system, Milan Italy-based Lipogem International, makes no claim of stem cell harvesting on their web site, and, instead, is marketing a 510(k) cleared adipose (fat) tissue processing device which may be used in, according to the 510(k) clearance, “for orthopedic surgery, arthroscopic surgery, neurosurgery, gastrointestinal and affiliated organ surgery, urological surgery, general surgery, gynecological surgery, thoracic surgery, laparoscopic surgery, and plastic and reconstructive surgery when aesthetic body contouring is desired.”
A typical Lipogems unit consists of a transparent plastic cylinder with filters and beads for the micro-fracturing of adipose tissue. The filters are fitted with Luerlock connectors to attach the syringes containing lipoaspirates and those for the collection of processed tissue. The processing unit along with the cannulas and set of syringes make up the Lipogems® kit.
According to Dr. Roger’s web site, the San Diego Orthobiologics Medical Group offers a full range of orthobiologics treatments including stem cell treatments, bone marrow aspirate treatments, platelet rich plasma (PRP) and alpha 2 macroglobulin, among other advanced therapies.
Furthermore, the Lipogem treatment as used at the San Diego Orthobiologics group is “a comprehensive Regenerative Medicine treatment that uses your own stem cells and their cellular ‘niche’ to maximize results. Mesenchymal stem cells require support from other cells and proteins to exert their healing benefits. Unlike other so-called ‘stem cell’ treatments, the unique advantage of LIPOGEMS® is that the complete healing environment of the fat tissue is maintained to improve cell viability and regenerative capacity. It allows improved cell viability over a greater period of time.”
The professional athlete who was treated with the Lipogems treatment had been struggling with debilitating pain two years after his knee injury and torn patellar ligament, and was seriously considering retiring from professional soccer.
According to the press announcement, after undergoing the Lipogem procedure six months ago, Farber went through a rehabilitation period, then physical therapy and progressive strengthening and treatment with BEMER (bio-electro-magnetic-energy-regulation) technology. And Farber is ready to play with his team again after just six months of treatment, a big contrast to the prior two years of ineffective treatment.