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What is a stem cell?

Listen to Summit Orthopedics’ regenerative medicine experts Steven Stulc, D.O., and Kirk Scofield, M.D., discuss the specific kinds of stem cells that are used in regenerative therapies, and how they can work to coordinate the body’s healing abilities.

Video transcription

Steven Stulc, D.O.: A stem cell to a patient, it conjures up a lot of imagery in their mind, but essentially a stem cell is one the beginning cells, and the true beginning of stem cell is an embryonic cell that can potentially develop into any other type of tissue in the body. That is not what we’re looking at with regenerative therapies. We’re looking at adult stem cells that have been somewhat differentiated down that pathway.

Kirk Scofield, M.D.: Most stem cells in an adult have kind of gone through some kind of through some maturation process, where they’re a little bit more limited in terms of what types of cells they can turn into. The type of cell that we think of in terms of orthopedic stem cell sort of therapy is something called a mesenchymal stem cell. And that has been shown, at least in labs, to be able to turn into cartilage cells, bone cells, and fat cells. But we think that a large part of what they do in the body actually is signaling and coordinating a healing response. Most stem cells sort of live, in addition to in the bone marrow, live around the outsides of blood vessels. So when there’s an injury, those stem cells are right there, where it happens. And they basically are the Generals, kind of coordinating all the different parts of the healing process that have to come in.