New advances in 'PRP' and stem cell therapy help ease pain of aching joints

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Known as platelet rich plasma, PRP, along with a patients own bone stem cells, can help rejuvenate aching and damaged joints. (KABC)

Olympic heptathlete Barbara Nwaba is trying something new to rehabilitate a damaged knee.

"With all the events and jumping and stuff I do I need all the help I can get," said Nwaba.

With a small pothole in her knee along with a stress fracture, she turned to Dr. Steven Sampson. Sampson uses PRP, or platelet rich plasma, along with stem cell therapy to regenerate diseased or injured areas.

"We inserted a camera to clean out disease and put a patch of cartilage. We decided to inject inside her bone delivering her own bone marrow stem cells," said Sampson, of Orthohealing Center.

Sampson, who's been doing PRP injections for 12 years, finds that adding a patient's own stem cells can be very effective. "The cells will travel directly inside the bone to the cartilage surface to potentially regenerate the cartilage and retreat the disease," said Sampson.

"I've had PRP in my knees, I've had knee surgery on my left knee. I couldn't even walk. My hips were killing me," said Ilene Feldman of Encino.

Active baby boomer Feldman was in to have stem cells injected in both knees. She loves to hike, box and cycle and was looking for a way to reduce the pain, so she can keep moving. "I have arthritis all over I've already had bone marrow in my hips. It was amazing. Worked great," Feldman said.

Sampson sees benefits to PRP, but sometimes it isn't enough. White spots on an MRI indicate areas where there are bone fractures and decay. Injecting bone cells beneath the cartilage has been show to be critical in promoting regeneration.

"After injection, within three to six months we see the bone regrow and improved to its normal state," said Sampson.

The price of these procedures varies anywhere from $500 to $11,000 and they're not covered by insurance. But when you consider a knee or hip replacement can cost upwards to $50,000 and substantial downtime, this is certainly something to take a look at.

"We do have clinical trials ongoing and we also created a not-for-profit registry to collect data across the country from different physicians doing cell therapies so we can pool that information and then show insurance companies safety and efficacy and be able to compare that to a cost analysis of the cost of major surgery," Sampson said.
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