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To Replace or Regenerate, that is the question!

Posted By Carol L. Hunter PhD, PMHCNS, CNP,, Friday, March 24, 2017

Last fall after having enough pain in my left hip to take my breath away when making normal movements, I saw an orthopedic physician who informed me that the x-rays showed bone on bone. That made me a great candidate for hip replacement surgery. The young physician was quick to tell me that “cartilage does not regenerate.” The hip, unlike the knee, is not easily accessible and is buried deep within the pelvis, classifying it as major surgery. I’ve known many people who proclaim they have breezed through this surgery and never looked back. There are also the horror stories. At any rate, I decided to do more research on options and was surprised to find many resources that challenged the doc’s thinking and insisted that yes, joint cartilage can regenerate. After mentioning my dilemma to a friend, she told me about two sisters who went to a physician in California to have stem cell transplants in their knees. I doubted if this relatively new procedure extended to the hip, but in fact, it did, and there were several testimonials in this regard on the doctor’s website. I talked to one of the sisters who was gracious enough to walk me through the whole process from beginning to end. She is in the early stages of recovery so the end result is not quite in yet, but it looks promising for her. Stem cells are extracted from the posterior side of the pelvic bone and also from abdominal fat cells beneath the umbilicus. After being processed they are injected back into the joint space along with dextrose, an irritant that serves to catalyze the inflammatory response. It is this response from the body that brings in nutrients to the young cells and allows them to differentiate into cartilaginous cells. The procedure is done under conscious sedation and can be completed in a morning’s time. There are two more injections needed of plasma rich platelets approximately six weeks apart that are reported to promote collagen synthesis, cell proliferation and cartilage repair. My informant called it “Miracle Gro!” There is a second center located in Florida and between the two clinics, costs range from $6500 to $8000 per joint or $8000 to $13,000 for two joints. To the best of my knowledge this procedure is not covered under commercial or federal health plans because it is still considered to be under investigation and experimental. Jennifer Elisseeff, Ph.D., an associate professor of biomedical engineering and her team of researchers, affiliated with the Whitaker Biomedical Engineering Institute at Johns Hopkins, have used a liquid transporter for the stem cells that when subjected to a ultraviolet light, becomes a gel like substance that provides a matrix known as a hydrogel, for the immature cells to attach to and grow. The advantage of using adult stem cells is that patients can use their own stem cells decreasing the risk of infection and tissue rejection. It also eliminates the controversy over use of embryonic stem cells. Unfortunately, this technique is not yet available in humans but research produced impressive results using adult goat stem cells that indeed developed into cartilage. All in all, it looks very promising for cartilage regeneration (Sneiderman, Phil; John Hopkins Medicine, no date.)

Short of surgery, is there any other approach that can help the condition of osteoarthritis? Here is my anecdotal evidence to date. I decided to start using systemic enzymes, which are similar to a cleanup crew in the body. Taken upon an empty stomach, the little enzymes find their way to areas that are “troubled” and go to work to remove debris. The catch is remembering to take them so my solution was to take them in the middle of the night when I invariably wake up. This has worked well and I have not missed more than a few nights since starting last November. In addition, I started a pair of supplements manufactured by Zycal Bioceuticals Healthcare Co. The first is Ostinol Advanced, 5X. which contains a complex of collagen and bone morphogenetic proteins and boswelia. The second is Chondrinol, containing glucosamine, chondroitin and the same complex as in the Ostinol. These are expensive supplements but far less than the costs of surgery and if they can help, it is worth the cost. More recently I have also started quercetin, PPQ and UC-II, a patented form of bio collagen, all of which have shown efficacy in promoting joint comfort and mobility. In Life Extension Magazine of September, 2014, Michael Enders references several studies by Kanzaki et al (2012) and Matsuno et al (2009) stating that “quercetin has demonstrated superior anti-inflammatory properties. When a group of flavonoids was studied, quercetin showed the strongest specific inhibitory effects on the pro-inflammatory enzymes. Added to a standard glucosamine/chondroitin supplement, 45mg/day for 12 to 16 weeks showed significantly improved joint pain and function scores compared with placebo.”  Both pyrroloquinoline quinone (PPQ) and UC-II are also potent anti-inflammatory compounds. UC-II is the cartilage from chicken breast and its collagen has a unique way of teaching killer T-cells in the gut to ignore exposed joint cartilage, thus reducing damage and destruction (Preston, W., 2/2012, Life Extension Magazine.)

For pain, I use boswelia, an additional dose from the one mentioned above and CBD, an extract of cannabidiol, from the hemp plant that does not have any psychoactive effect and is legal in all 50 states. From the natural remedies as cited above, I can say my condition has significantly improved. I no longer have the sudden, sharp pains that took away my breath. I have no pain or achiness at night when it is most noticeable. As if that was not enough, I was able to get back on my incline trainer and spinner and start back on my exercise regimen. I still have stiffness and decreased range of motion and occasional aches but it is nothing like it was and I am greatly encouraged. Perhaps that young doctor was wrong after all. I would prefer to believe that our wondrous human bodies have the capacity for regeneration if given the tools that are required.

For more information, the websites on stem cell transplants are: drfields.com and smartchoicestemcell.com. (These are only two examples and are not intended to be a complete listing.)

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